Mississippi Crime of the Week – Identity Theft

Identity theft is a form of fraud, committed by persons who pretend to be someone else in order to access resources, obtain credit, or steal money in the other person’s name.  The most popular forms of identity theft include:

  • credit card identity theft
  • government benefit identity theft
  • computer and internet identity theft (including ebay and other online auctions)
  • bank, loan, or other financial institution fraud
  • work-related identity theft
  • utility or telephone identity theft

Mississippi made “identity theft” a separate crime in 2003.  Section 97-45-19 of the Mississippi Code Annotated makes it illegal for a person to obtain the personal identity information of another person with the intent to unlawfully use that information for any of the following purposes:

  • to obtain financial credit
  • to purchase, obtain, or lease any real or personal property
  • to obtain employment
  • to obtain access to medical records
  • to commit any illegal act

This “personal identity information” that is protected by law may include current or former names, social security numbers, driver’s license numbers, checking or saving account numbers, credit or debit numbers, personal or electronic identification numbers, electronic signatures, medical identification numbers, birth dates, mother’s maiden name, tax identification numbers, or any information which can be used to access a person’s personal financial resources.

What are the penalties for a violation of Mississippi’s identity theft law?

If the violation involves an amount of less than $250.00 dollars, it is considered a misdemeanor, and is punishable by imprisonment for not more than six months, and a fine of not more than $1000.00.  If the amount is more than $250.00, the crime is a felony, and is punishable by imprisonment for not less than two nor more than 15 years, and a fine of not more than $10,000.00.  The statute also provides that in all identity theft cases, restitution to the victim shall be paid.

How can a lawyer help in an identity theft case?

Your lawyer will investigate your arrest and any law enforcement investigations that were conducted for possible defenses.  This includes determining whether any searches or seizures made by police were excessive or illegal.  If the police violated your rights during the search, your lawyer will move the court to suppress any evidence that was discovered from the search.   Your lawyer should also try to determine if your actions fall under an exception to identity theft, such as obtaining information in the course of a bona fide consumer or commercial transaction, or pursuant to the discovery process of a civil court action, administrative proceeding, or arbitration proceeding.

In many cases, people charged with online credit card fraud, internet identity theft, and other charges relating to identity fraud have no idea about how much trouble they are in.  Identity theft crime tends to be sophisticated, and your lawyer needs to be familiar with current technology and trends in investigation in order to be able to help you.  If you are accused of identity theft and need to discuss your case, call me at 601-991-1099 for a free consultation.  We are here to help.