Being accused of committing a crime can be a terrifying experience. It’s perfectly natural to be worried about what will happen and how it will affect your future. You’ll also likely have plenty of questions. If you’ve been accused of identity fraud, it’s important you understand what that crime means.

What is identity fraud?

Also commonly known as identity theft, Georgia takes identity fraud very seriously. Georgia Code Section 16-9-121 sets out the elements of the offense but, in simplest terms, it means using identifying information which doesn’t belong to you for a fraudulent purpose. To commit the crime, you must not have had authorization to use the information.

The information used can be of a living person, deceased or even fictitious. It is the intent of the party using it that matters, rather than any impact the use may have had on another. In fact, simply possessing such information, with the intent to use it fraudulently, is sufficient to violate the statute. It is not necessary to actually commit a fraudulent act. Georgia also has a separate statute for aggravated identity fraud. For this crime, one must use the information for the purpose of obtaining employment.

Punishment

Georgia treats violations of identity fraud as a felony. It is punishable by imprisonment of one year to 10 years, if it is a first offense. If someone is convicted of a second offense, the potential punishment increases to three to 15 years. Fines are also permissible, into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Considering the severity of the potential punishments, any accusation of identity fraud must be taken seriously. You should immediately seek the assistance of an experienced professional, to ensure you’re able to plan an effective defense strategy.