Thinking of Stealing Identity? Here’s What You’ll Face if You’re Caught

Brandon King
Last Updated May 28, 2024
close up shot of identity theft word

If you’re thinking of stealing another person’s identity for your personal and financial gain, think again. Not only is this crime an inhumane one, leaving victims feeling scared, vulnerable, and unsure of who to trust, but it also comes with severe penalties that can seriously impact your life.

The unauthorized use or possession of another’s personal identifying information is enough to result in an identity theft charge. The punishment matches the crime so if you were contemplating identity theft, there are serious consequences to face if you’re caught. Here are 7 types of identity theft penalties, with some more severe than others.

What is Identity Theft?

Before discussing the penalties, it’s helpful to be aware of what defines identity theft.

Identity theft is when an unauthorized person or party uses another individual’s personal information. These details include name, address, Social Security Number (SSN), and even bank account and credit card information. This information can be used to assume a person’s identity for the purpose of committing a fraudulent and criminal act.

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What are the Penalties for Identity Theft?

Just like all criminal laws, the laws of identity theft differ from state to state. There are also federal laws that have drawn up their own penalties too. If you are found guilty and are convicted of identity theft, it can lead to either one or more of the penalties detailed below:

1. Incarceration

Identity theft isn’t a petty crime that you’ll just get slapped on the wrist for. It’s taken extremely seriously by the federal authorities and has life-altering consequences.

A conviction for identity theft can result in jail time. Depending on the seriousness of the case, a general misdemeanor conviction means up to a year in prison. Felony sentences for more severe forms of identity theft can result in several years of incarceration. 

The sentence length of identity theft is similar to that of general theft crimes – the higher the amount that is stolen or, the more serious the identity theft is, the longer and more severe the sentence.

2. Fines

If you have been convicted of identity theft, it is very common for courts to order a fine penalty as well as impose other punishments. The amount of money you’re ordered to pay often reflects the seriousness of the charge.

These fines can be classified as either a misdemeanor or felony, with the latter charge applying to more serious crimes, often involving violence or physical harm. Misdemeanor fines can reach up to $1,000, whereas felony fines are significantly more.

Besides identity theft, other common examples of misdemeanor crimes that you can receive a fine for include shoplifting, trespassing, simple assault, petty theft, disorderly conduct, and other offenses that may qualify as low-level.

3. Restitution

If your crime results in a victim suffering financial harm or losing money, courts also usually order the perpetrator to pay restitution. The idea of restitution costs is to compensate the victim for their loss while simultaneously disciplining the defendant.

In some cases, it takes victims of identity theft much time and effort to recover from the crime, handling credit scores, and closing accounts. With this in mind, some states, like Florida, require perpetrators to pay a minimum amount in restitution even if the victim did not suffer any direct financial loss.

4. Probation

Probation is usually used on first-time identity theft offenders who haven’t caused significant harm to their victims. However, it is also possible for a court to impose a probation sentence either in addition to or separate from other consequences.

Probation sentences usually last a year. However, the probation period may be up to three years or more, depending on the severity of the first-time offense.

If the courts decide to impose a probation sentence, it means you will have to comply with specific restrictions, including reporting to your assigned probation officer, abstaining from committing other crimes, and paying all fines and restitution.

5. Serious Crime Prevention Order

This order is one of the most rigorous penalties a court can give. It influences many aspects of the perpetrator’s life, including:

  • Whether the defendant can work for particular businesses
  • Whether the defendant can work with particular individuals
  • Travel restrictions (both national and international)
  • Access to certain premises

Besides these limitations, the identity theft perpetrator may be required to disclose their personal and business details on demand for a certain period.

✎ Related: Famous Identity Theft Cases in Recent Years

6. Financial Reporting Order

If the court rules a defendant likely to act criminally again, they can demand that the perpetrator reports their financial affairs on a regular and consistent basis. This information ensures that courts keep regular tabs on a defendant’s finances and query suspicious statements.

These orders are designed to monitor criminals and reduce the chances of them striking again. The regular reports will detail anomalies and catch fraudulent crimes before they become too serious. In some cases, a financial reporting order can last more than 15 years.

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Think Before You Act

With these 7 types of identity theft penalties proving severe and life-limiting, their purpose is to deter criminals from committing fraudulent offenses.

From spending years in prison to paying victims compensation and restitution, committing identity theft is not worth the consequences. The authorities will inevitably catch you, and any temporary financial gain will come crashing down, leaving you in a worse situation than before.

Think before you act, and don’t commit identity theft. It’s as simple as that.

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