In New Jersey, the terms “identity theft” and “identity fraud” are used interchangeably to describe the same crime – the act of fraudulently using another person’s personal information in an attempt to elude police, defraud his or her character, or otherwise impersonate another for criminal purposes.
N.J.S.A. 2C:21-17 defines all the acts that may be charged as identity fraud in New Jersey.
The following acts are disorderly persons offenses in New Jersey. The penalties for them are up to six months in jail and restitution payments.
- Impersonatinganother person or assuming a false identity with the intention ofbenefiting from the impersonation or hurting, physically orotherwise, the victim.
- Claiming to be arepresentative of an organization or company with the intention offinancially or otherwise benefiting from the claim.
- Using a falseidentity to apply or purchase a service or other property.
- Using a false orstolen identity to avoid making payments or other legal obligations.
Often, identity thieves obtain personal information through driver’s licenses or credit cards. These can be obtained by stealing a victim’s purse, wallet or other personal belongings, or through the internet. As the internet has evolved over the past two decades, so have ways to use it for criminal purposes. Viruses have been created to steal passwords and other secure information as well as scam websites and email fraud, which lure victims into providing credit card information by claiming to be a store, service or random gift.
Identity theft can be committed using another person’s name, social security number, phone number, or credit card number. The severity of the crime is determined by the amount of money that is gained through transactions while posing as another person and the number of people whose identities have been used fraudulently.
If additional circumstances apply to an identity theft case, the charges may be raised accordingly. For the following actions, an identity theft charge is raised to a fourth degree crime. The penalties for a fourth degree identity theft charge are a prison term of up to eighteen months and required restitution payments.
- If one person is avictim of the identity theft.
- If the money orbenefit gained is valued at less than $500.
If two to four people are victims of the identity theft or the monetary value of their loss is between $500 and $75,000, the crime is considered a third degree crime. For a third degree identity theft charge, the penalties are a jail sentence of three to five years plus restitution payments to the victim or victims for the money they lost.
An identity theft charge becomes a second degree crime if it is committed against five or more people or if the total value of the loss is $75,000 or more. Second degree identity thefts are punished by five to ten years in jail and restitution payments.
Restitution is money paid to a victim to help him or her recoup his or her losses, which includes a damaged credit score and money spent on legal fees spent on the case. N.J.S.A. 2C:44-2(b) gives the court the right to decide the amount of money a convicted thief must pay to his or her victim or victims and the method through which the payments must be made. To determine this, the courts must consider the defendant’s current and potential future earnings, as well as his or her other financial assets. Restitution payments may not bankrupt the defendant. Defaulting on restitution payments is grounds for the defendant to have his or her driver’s license suspended if it can be determined that he or she defaulted without a good cause. Losing one’s job is considered to be a good cause for defaulting on restitution payments and grounds for the court to extend the defendant’s payment period.
If you have been charged with identity theft in New Jersey, get the best possible help you can. Call Ron Bar-Nadav today at 201-525-1555 for your legal consultation. Let him guide you to your best options and fight the charges together.