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The consequences of identity theft

What do you think of when you hear “identity theft?” You’d be correct if you thought of cybercriminals using stolen account details to make fraudulent bank withdrawals and purchases. But identity theft is more than just about hackers and malware.

What is identity theft?

Per New Jersey law, identity theft is when a person impersonates another in order to obtain a benefit or to defraud the other.

The following actions also count as identity theft:

  • Pretending to be a representative of an organization
  • Assuming a false identity, impersonating another, or making a false statement about the identity of another in an application
  • Obtaining the personal identifying information of others and using that information to obtain a benefit, avoid paying a debt or evade criminal charges

Identity theft isn’t also limited to impersonation on electronic communications or a website. Lying on a paper application for a loan by using another person’s identity, for instance, is identity theft.

Conviction and penalties

The conviction and penalties for identity theft are based on the amount the offender deprived the owner of the personal identifying information, as well as the number of people whose identities were stolen:

  • Offender obtained a benefit or deprived another of less than $500; offense involved the identity of one person: The violator faces a charge for a crime of the fourth degree. A conviction carries up to 18 months in prison and as much as $10,000 in fines.
  • Offender obtained a benefit or deprived another of more than $500 and less than $75,000; offense involved the identities of between two and five people: This is a crime of the third degree. On conviction, the person faces up to five years in prison and as much as $15,000 in fines.
  • Offender obtained a benefit or deprived another of $75,000 or more; the identities of five or more were involved: This offense leads to a criminal charge of the second degree. On conviction, the person must serve up to ten years in prison and pay a maximum fine of $150,000.

In addition to these penalties, a court may order the convicted person to pay restitution to the victims. The convicted may be on the hook for victims’ expenses in clearing their credit history of fraudulent activity or any proceeding involving debts or liens.

Identity theft can describe many offenses involving misusing another’s personal identifying information. Even the smallest offense can land a convicted person in jail. If you face charges, don’t underestimate the potential consequences.



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