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Georgia is a hot spot for identity theft

On Behalf of | Feb 28, 2024 | Criminal Defense |

By all accounts, identity theft is becoming increasingly common around the nation, but it appears to be a bigger threat for some Americans more than others. The financial website Wallethub recently ranked the 50 states (plus the District of Columbia) where residents were most vulnerable to identity theft. Georgia came in fifth. In terns of the number of complaints per capita, Georgia came in second, behind only the nation’s capital.

As the problem of identity theft increases, political pressure builds for the authorities to crack down on the crime. Georgia currently treats identity theft as a felony.

What is identity theft?

There are many methods of identity theft, but the term generally refers to crimes in which a person uses another person’s identifying information (such as their Social Security Number, birthday or other data) to impersonate them.

For instance, a thief might use another person’s identity to open a credit card account and then use the credit card to fraudulently purchase goods. Later, the victim receives bills for goods they didn’t purchase These are not victimless crimes. Even if the victim ends up not having to pay these bills, they could see their credit reports affected or suffer other repercussions.

Some cases of identity theft involve sophisticated hacking or phishing operations. Others can involve things as simple as stealing someone’s mail.

Identity theft charges in Georgia

Georgia law treats identity theft as a felony. A conviction carries a prison sentence of 1-10 years and a fine of up to $100,000. Georgia also allows for civil penalties, meaning that the victim of the theft can sue the defendant to recover compensation for what they lost through the theft and fraud.

Defending against identity theft charges

Given the widespread practice of identity theft, the public has little sympathy for the people charged with the crime. Still, all those accused of a crime — including identity theft — have the right to a defense.

Defending against these charges is not easy, but it can be done. Intent to commit fraud is a necessary element of these charges. This means if the prosecution cannot prove that a defendant intended to steal someone’s information and use it fraudulently, the defendant cannot be convicted.