Identity Theft Defense Attorney in Naples
Let us help with your federal fraud case in Collier County, Florida
Almost all transactions in daily life rely on identification information, like names, Social Security numbers, driver’s license numbers, birthdates and various account numbers. Identity theft is a federal crime, and is usually the first step toward committing the subsequent crime of identity fraud. Offenders use the stolen information to deceive a third party, like a credit card issuer or other financial institution, to access credit or withdraw funds. Naples, Florida, is a hot spot for this category of crime. When the local Hodges University started its Identity Fraud Institute, the director said that Florida typically ranks first among states for identity fraud complaints. Additionally, Naples was ranked fifth nationwide as a region troubled by this criminal activity. With so much attention on the region for identity theft and fraud, residents may have an heightened need for legal advice. Joffe Law, P.A. is a federal criminal defense firm in the city that assists people facing accusations of committing identity theft and related financial crimes.
How identity theft and fraud occur
People may acquire identifying and personal information about others in a variety of ways. Private-sector and government employees could take advantage of their access to customers’ and citizens’ information. Hackers also target servers for commercial or government entities for the purpose of harvesting personal information. In many cases, lost or stolen wallets and purses provide thieves directly with people’s driver’s licenses, credit and debit cards, health insurance information and other valuable information. Sensitive information is also obtained by going through people’s trash or taking their mail.
Once the act of identity theft has been accomplished, the information may be applied to access money, credit, housing, health care or other services. The users may also attempt to acquire new forms of identification derived from stolen IDs. The deceitfulness of using the stolen identity to perform subsequent actions involving the identity results in fraud.
Examples of frauds committed with stolen identities:
- falsifying a loan or credit card application
- withdrawing money from an account
- making online purchases
- opening bank accounts
- leasing property under a stolen name
- filing a fraudulent tax return
The identities of adults, children and the deceased are all vulnerable to theft. Some groups focus mainly on hijacking the identities of dead people. The slang term for this form of identity theft is ghosting. Stealing the identities of the deceased gives offenders extra time to profit from the information because months will easily pass before credit bureaus or government agencies update their databases about the deaths. One identification protection firm estimated that criminals take approximately 2.5 million identities of the dead annually.
Do not say anything that might incriminate you. Speak with an attorney first.
Who investigates identity theft and fraud?
Victim complaints launch many investigations when people see strange activity on their statements. Financial institutions and merchants also monitor for suspicious transactions and alert authorities. Local law enforcement is usually the first point of contact for complaints. Their initial investigation may eventually involve federal investigators. Multiple federal agencies pursue identity theft criminals, including:
- Federal Bureau of Investigation
- Secret Service
- Postal Inspection Service
- Federal Trade Commission
- identity theft laws
An increase in identity crimes prompted the federal government to pass the Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act in 1998. This established the knowing use or transfer of identification without authorization as a federal crime when the act contributes to or supports the violation of other federal laws or state felonies. Because of this act’s relationship to other federal crimes, suspects have an increased likelihood of facing multiple criminal charges. For example, alleged identity thieves may also be charged with money laundering offenses as they process the proceeds from their identity fraud schemes.
In 2004, the Theft Penalty Enhancement Act increased penalties for cases considered to have aggravating factors. Under this law, convicted individuals could have 2 years added to their prison sentences or 5 years if they appeared to be involved with terrorism.
The threat of multiple criminal charges and enhanced sentencing adds to the importance of legal representation. An identity theft attorney could take steps to protect a suspect’s rights and cast doubt on evidence needed for a conviction.
Identity fraud defense strategies
An attorney could help a suspect communicate information that investigators may have overlooked. In some situations, people get accused of identity fraud when they had permission to use a credit or debit card. The ill will generated by a breakup between romantic partners can prompt a complaint against an ex who had only used the card with the other party’s knowledge. An emergency regarding a sick relative, particularly an elderly one, could cause a caretaker to access someone’s bank account to pay bills during an emergency. In a case like that, an attorney would argue that the person had no intention of gaining from the transactions.
Federal criminal defense in Naples
The stakes are high for defendants headed to federal court. We have supported over 1,100 clients accused of crimes like identity theft and fraud. The accurate and unbiased legal information that we provide may enable individuals to understand their rights and options when being questioned about alleged crimes, negotiating a plea bargain or preparing for trial. Our team has the training to analyze the complex transactions behind these accusations and challenge the interpretations made by investigators or prosecutors.