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What is identity theft and are there penalties in Virginia?

When it comes to theft crimes, most individuals in Virginal probably think of things such as robbery, shoplifting or larceny. A growing type of theft crime across the country is ID theft, and individuals who are accused of ID theft can face stiff penalties if convicted.

According to data published on the Virginia Attorney General's website, identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in the United States. Often, people look at ID theft as a victimless crime, because those involved in the crime usually don't know or see the victims. Banks and other organizations may work with victims to cover the costs associated with theft, but it doesn't mean that stealing someone's identity isn't considered a very serious crime.

Identity theft can occur when someone poses as another person to obtain credit or uses another person's identifying information to access benefits or accounts. In Virginia, if a person is convicted of engaging in identity theft, the penalties depend on how much monetary loss was experienced by the victim or victims. ID theft that results in any financial loss up to $200 is considered a misdemeanor. Individuals convicted may have to pay a fine up to $2,500 and serve up to 12 months in prison.

In cases where financial loss is over $200, criminal charges are at a felony level. Convicted persons are sentenced to a minimum prison sentence of one year; the sentence can be no longer than five years.

As with any criminal charge, a strong defense may help reduce penalties and protect an individuals future. Since ID theft is different than other forms of theft, understanding legal options for the specific case is a good start to planning a defense.

Source: Virginia Attorney General, "ID Theft FAQs" Dec. 03, 2014

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