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Elements of identity theft charges

Increasingly, prosecutors in Minnesota are aggressively going after people they accuse of using another person’s personal data for economic gain, a crime commonly known as identity theft. Understanding the elements of identity theft can help those wrongly accused to mount an effective defense.

In this context, “personal data” include information like Social Security numbers, credit history and PIN numbers. Common ways this data can be acquired are through either unlawful access from government or financial entities, or via lost or stolen mail, wallets or purses, or credit, debit or ID cards. This data can then be used to spend money or acquire new credit in the victim’s name.

Usually, people know when their wallet has been stolen, and can take steps to try to prevent identity theft. Other times, however, hackers break into the system of a bank or similar institution. These third-party security breaches can also lead to identity theft, because banks and other businesses often keep sensitive information on their customers.

Most states have laws in place specifically to punish identity theft. It is also a federal crime, which could mean even more severe punishment. Federal prosecutors will likely pursue prison time for the accused, along with requiring restitution and fines that could far outstrip the defendant’s financial resources.

The prospect of federal prison can be scary, and for good reason. Every case is unique, but an experienced criminal defense attorney may be able to avoid this result for you. Even when the evidence suggests a dismissal or acquittal is unlikely, your attorney may be able to negotiate a plea bargain that avoids trial and a lengthy prison sentence.

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