Today, more than ever, people throughout the U.S. and around the world are connected by the Internet. Whether an individual likes it or not, from our Social Security numbers to our bank accounts, a plethora of personal and financial information is stored and accessible via the World Wide Web.
Increasingly, the Internet is being used to access personal identifying and financial information through criminal activities that fall under the umbrella terms of identity theft and identity fraud. According to the Identity Theft Resource Center, during 2014 alone, there were an estimated 761 reported data breaches impacting more than 83 million people.
In addition to so-called cyber identity theft in which an individual obtains personal identifying and/or financial information via the Internet, the same type of information may be obtained by more traditional means. For example, an individual may be accused of stealing a purse or wallet or looking through someone's mail.
In Michigan, criminal charges related to identity theft and fraud are considered felonies. Individuals who face these types of serious criminal charges may face prison sentences of up to five years and fines of up to $25,000. The penalties and fines increase exponentially for subsequent offenses.
Individuals facing these types of serious charges would be wise to contact a criminal defense attorney who handles financial and white collar crimes. Possible defenses that may be successfully used in getting criminal charges dismissed or reduced include that an individual had consented to obtain and use the information and that the information was accessed as a means to pay for a gift for the alleged victim.
Source: FindLaw.com, "Michigan Identity Theft Laws," April 3, 2015