Have you Been Charged with Identity Fraud in Georgia?
Identity fraud is a crime that many people are familiar with and often worry about becoming a victim of. It is also known as identity theft. At its most basic definition, identity fraud is a crime where one person uses another person's personal data without their authorization in order to deceive or defraud someone else. Examples of identity fraud include: opening a credit card using someone else's social security number, using stolen checks to purchase items, or using a stolen ATM card. These are just a few ways in which identity fraud can manifest.
Georgia Law on Identity Fraud
O.C.G.A. §16-9-121 states that a person commits the offense of identity fraud when he or she willfully and fraudulently:
- Without authorization or consent, uses or possesses with intent to fraudulently use identifying information concerning a person;
- Uses identifying information of an individual under 18 years old over whom he or she exercises custodial authority;
- Uses or possess with intent to fraudulently use identifying information concerning a deceased individual;
- Creates, uses, or possess with intent to fraudulently use any counterfeit or fictitious information concerning a fictitious person with intent to use such counterfeit or fictitious identification information for the purpose of committing or facilitating the commission of a crime or fraud on another person; or
- Without authorization or consent, creates, uses, or possesses with intent to fraudulently use any counterfeit or fictitious identifying information concerning a real person with intent to use such counterfeit or fictitious information for the purpose of committing or facilitating the commission of a crime or fraud on another person.
Identity fraud can also be committed when a person willingly accepts identifying information, which they know to be fraudulent, stolen, counterfeit, or fictitious for the purpose of identification.
However, identity fraud does not apply to a person under 21 years old who uses a fraudulent, counterfeit, or other false identification cards for the purpose of obtaining entry into a business establishment or for purchasing items which he or she is not of legal age to purchase. However, other criminal statutes will apply to this kind of behavior.
Georgia Case Law
A woman was convicted of identity fraud in Vicks v. State. 289 Ga. App. 495, (2008). Vicks filled out an application to open a new checking account and receive a bank car. On the card were a social security number, her thumbprint, and a signature. The card was signed by Sandra Wimberly, but Vicks asked that the checks be issued under the name “Banks.” Investigators found out that the social security number belonged to a 17-year-old boy who was not related to Vicks and she did not have permission to use his number. Further, the fingerprint on the signature card matched the fingerprint of Vicks that had been on file with the Thomas County Sheriff's Office. Therefore, the Court found that Vicks attempted to open a bank account using the identity of another person, using their social security number, with the intent to obtain that person's resources in one way or another. Moreover, she was convicted of identity fraud.
A jury convicted a niece and her aunt of 20 counts of identity fraud in McKenzie v. State. 300 Ga. App. 469, (2009). The niece worked for a law firm for three months where she stole firm checks that contained individual check numbers, the firm name, and the firm checking account number. She wrote in an amount on the checks and forged one of the lawyer's signatures. The aunt would then recruit another woman to cash the checks while the niece intercepted calls from the bank and gave false verification information. The niece and her aunt cashed over twenty checks totaling $425,000. During the trial, both niece and her aunt argued that the essential elements of identity fraud were not proven. However, the court disagreed because the evidence showed they accessed the firm's financial resources by using its identifying information. Therefore, they were both found guilty of 20 counts of identity fraud.
Penalty for Identity Fraud in Georgia
Identity fraud is considered a felony in Georgia and is punished by one to ten years in prison, a fine up to $100,000, or both. For a second or subsequent identity fraud offense, the penalty increases to three to fifteen years in prison, a fine up to $250,000, or both. A felony conviction can make it difficult to gain employment, obtain housing, receive credit, vote, or own a firearm in Georgia.
In addition to prison or fines, a court may order the defendant to make restitution to the victims of their crime.
An attempt to commit identity fraud will also be considered a crime in Georgia. O.C.G.A. §16-9-122 criminalizes the attempting or conspiring to commit identity fraud. If convicted of an attempt, the accused will be punished by prison, community service, fine, or by both. However, the punishment for an attempt cannot exceed the penalty for when identity fraud was actually committed.
Consent: If the defendant consented for the defendant to use the identifying information, then a crime has not been committed.
Lack of Evidence: There must be sufficient evidence tying the defendant to the fraudulent acts. If there is not enough proving that they were the ones that committed the crime, then they cannot be guilty.
The information was obtained lawfully: There are certain situations in which a person is allowed to acquire personal information such as when running credit checks or in the course of a genuine consumer or commercial transaction.
The information was used to obtain employment: While this is a defense to identity fraud because employment is not included under the statute, the defendant will likely be charged with aggravated identity fraud.
What are Not Defenses
There was no real injury because the person was fictitious or deceased: It does not matter whether or not the person is still living or deceased or made up; it is still considered identity fraud.
I thought I had permission to use the information: Without specific authorization or consent, it is illegal to use another person's identifying information. A misunderstanding will not be sufficient to avoid a conviction.
Identity fraud crimes can be difficult to defend against because a lot of the evidence is very technical. You need an experienced Georgia Criminal Defense Attorney to help you navigate the legal system and to help prepare the best defense. Lawson and Berry and their team of Georgia Identity Fraud Attorneys will ensure your rights and your future are protected during this difficult time. Felony convictions are not to be taken lightly so let someone help that cares about your future as much as you do. Contact us today for a free case evaluation.