The dawning of the age of the internet has led to the onset of a variety of “cyber crimes,” including identity theft. Sensitive credit card, bank account and personal data can fall into the hands of hackers who have the expertise to thwart even the most robust cyber security measures. Because of the pervasiveness of identity theft, law enforcement officials continue to ramp up their efforts to prevent it — and apprehend and prosecute the perpetrators.

Identity Theft Defined in PA

In PA, identity theft entails the possession or use of the identifying information of another individual without that person’s consent to benefit financially, obtain something of value or commit additional crimes. This data can encompass items such as Social Security, bank account or credit card numbers, dates of birth, cell phone service records and insurance information. Examples of the many ways criminals attempt to benefit from identity theft include:

  • Using a stolen credit card number to make unauthorized purchases
  • Filing a false tax return to receive an illegal refund
  • Applying for a loan with a person’s data
  • Obtaining a new credit card or requesting a replacement with stolen data
  • Using another person’s information to get health care or prescription drugs

What Are the Penalties for Identity Theft in PA?

The criminal penalties for individuals convicted of identity theft in PA vary based on several factors, including the intent of the perpetrator, the amount stolen, the age of the victim and the existence of previous convictions on the individual’s record. Also, in PA, each time the offender uses the stolen information to commit an unlawful act, the law considers it a separate incident with separate penalties. So if an individual uses stolen credit card information to make 10 purchases, he or she could face 10 different charges.

Pennsylvania implements the following grading system to determine the applicable penalties in an ID theft case:

  • Stealing property valued at less than $2,000 is a first-degree misdemeanor that carries up to five years in prison and a maximum fine of $10,000.
  • Stealing $2,000 or more is a third-degree felony with a maximum prison term of seven years and a fine of up to $15,000.

Someone with previous convictions will likely face stiffer penalties than an individual charged with a first-time offense for credit card theft. A third ID theft conviction is a second-degree felony and can carry a 10-year prison sentence. Also, if the victim is over 60 years of age, the level of the offense will be one grade higher. In addition to the fines, perpetrators may have to pay restitution to each victim.

Federal Charges for PA Identify Theft

ID theft is a federal crime, which means those accused of committing it could also face charges from the U.S. government. Under the terms of the Federal Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act, a conviction for identity theft can result in up to 15 years in prison. Other laws and statutes related to credit card fraud and other offenses may also apply.

Identity Theft Defense in PA

Because of the severity and significant penalties associated with identity theft, individuals accused of committing it will need strong legal representation. It’s imperative to enlist the services of an experienced attorney who understands the laws and knows how to mount an effective defense.

If you need a capable PA ID attorney in the York area, MPL Law Firm can help. We take the time to listen to our clients to identify their specific needs. We’ll then develop and execute a carefully designed legal strategy that will deliver the best possible outcome. Contact us for more information or to schedule a consultation today.