West Palm Beach
Identity Theft Defense Attorney
Let us help you mount a potent federal defense
Accusations of identity fraud place you in the crosshairs of federal prosecutors. Someone arrested in West Palm Beach, Florida for identity fraud has an urgent need for advice from a federal identity theft defense lawyer. Multi-year prison sentences, fines, and restitution orders are entirely possible when convicted of this federal crime. Victims of the crime can lose large sums as well as suffer long-term hassles with credit bureaus due to the hijacking of their identities. The offense relies on using the personal identifying information of an individual without permission for financial gain. Identity fraud also occurs when people make up fake identities or revive the identities of the deceased. Although this criminal activity takes many forms, it starts with an identity theft that then enables access to money or other valuable benefits.
Understanding the difference between identity theft and fraud
The terms identity theft and identity fraud are often used interchangeably, but they have slightly different definitions. Identity theft specifically describes stealing personal identifying information and/or financial account numbers.
Common elements of an identity stolen are:
- Social Security number
- driver’s license number
- bank account or credit card numbers
- financial account passwords and PINs
Identity fraud is when an individual or organization uses false or stolen credentials to impersonate someone to access finances or benefits like Medicare. This constitutes a fraud because the false identity was used to deceive for the purpose of financial gain.
What actions constitute identity theft?
Unauthorized users collect illicit gains in any number of ways, including:
- withdrawing money from bank accounts
- producing fake credit or debit cards
- purchasing goods and services with credit card
- using stolen identities to apply for loans
- using stolen identities to collect insurance benefits
- producing fake IDs, such as for immigration purposes
Identity theft and fraud obviously go hand in hand. Both actions can produce federal criminal charges. Individual suspects might commit both theft and fraud or only one of the offenses. For example, many people who commit identity fraud buy the stolen identities instead of stealing the information themselves.
Do not say anything that might incriminate you. Speak with an attorney first.
Federal laws about identity theft
Modern life with its government-issued IDs and digital financial systems has forced the government to expand identity fraud laws over the years. Multiple federal acts have defined these offenses and outlined serious penalties due to the losses that individuals and businesses often suffer. Your West Palm Beach fraud defense attorney can help you better understand how they apply to your unique case.
Federal laws addressing identity fraud and theft:
- Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act of 1998: Defined victims to include creditors and people who had IDs stolen and established criminal penalties.
- Identity Theft Penalty Enhancement Act of 2004: Created harsher penalties for identity crimes involving immigration, Social Security benefits, and domestic terrorism.
- Identity Theft Enforcement and Restitution Act of 2008: Gave federal courts the power to prosecute crimes committed within a single state and expanded restitution guidelines.
Federal agencies that investigate identity crimes include:
- Federal Bureau of Investigation
- Federal Trade Commission
- Secret Service
- Postal Inspection Service
- Internal Revenue Service
Organized crime and identity fraud
Selling drugs has long been the bread and butter of street gangs, but these organized criminals have found identity fraud to be highly profitable and safer. A recent Forbes article explored how South Florida has become an epicenter for organized identity fraud.
According to police, narcotics are losing their appeal among criminals. Russian-hosted websites provide gangs with a steady source of stolen identities collected through various hacking operations that typically target large companies with vast amounts of consumer data. The report explained how gang members in Miami were increasingly being found with stolen identities and financial information used to purchase everything from guns to luxury vacations.
With stolen information making money easy to get, news alerts like this one in West Palm Beach are becoming commonplace. The sheriff’s office asked for information about a man seen withdrawing money from a local victim’s bank account. He had allegedly been using stolen identities and committing fraud in other states as well.
How identity information is stolen
Because identity fraud requires the acquisition of personal information or account numbers, consumers must protect their identities vigilantly. Common methods for uncovering private information include:
- searching trash: People who do not shred their sensitive information might place it in a bin at the edge of the street for collection.
- stealing mail: The financial and insurance statements that come in the mail are vulnerable when sitting in an unsecured mailbox.
- tricking people: More complex identity theft schemes require some research. After learning something about a target, the thief makes contact by phone, internet, or maybe even in person, posing as someone from a bank or medical company and asking for personal information.
- stealing purses and wallets: This is an old-fashioned strategy but still quite productive because too many people have multiple important documents, including their Social Security cards, in their wallets.
- skimming: This terms describes placing a card reader inside a real card reader. The device them collects credit and debit card information as unwitting consumers insert their cards for normal purchases.
How a federal criminal lawyer helps the accused
When law enforcement agents contact you about identity fraud, you could be under suspicion of the crime. Legal help from a federal criminal attorney in West Palm Beach will help you assert your rights. A defense lawyer can explain when you should answer questions or remain silent. Even if you want to cooperate with investigators, you must do so carefully. Otherwise, you could increase your risk of being labeled a criminal in the eyes of authorities.
If you have already been arrested, then the pressure to plead guilty will be high. You need an independent assessment of your case by an identity fraud defense attorney who understands federal criminal courts. You may have defense options. The evidence against you may be insufficient or open to challenge if it cannot be connected to you beyond a reasonable doubt.
Defense attorney Joffe Law, P.A. provides private legal defenses that are more thorough than what an overworked public defender can give. We have substantial resources and over 35 years of experience defending people from federal criminal charges. For help in West Palm Beach, contact our office for a confidential consultation today.