Innocent Mistakes That Can Lead To Identity Theft Charges in CaliforniaThe news media has consistently warned people about the risks of identity theft ever since the internet and social media took off over the past 20 years. Although these kinds of white-collar crimes were committed well before the advent of the internet, it has made them easier to commit. While the majority of people believe that masked hackers carry out identity theft in their basements, the truth is that anyone can commit this crime and frequently does so unintentionally.

Even though most people accused of identity crimes were unaware of their actions, they still found themselves in trouble with the law. Everyone in California needs to be aware of seemingly innocent actions that can result in an identity theft charge, even though defendants should always contact an experienced attorney to start formulating a defense strategy.

What is the legal definition of Identity Theft?

The act of “willfully” obtaining another person’s “personal identifying information” and using that “information for any unlawful purpose” without the owner’s consent is referred to as identity theft under California Penal Code 530.5 PC. Examples of such unlawful uses include acquiring:

  1. Money or credit
  2. Products
  3. Goods
  4. Services
  5. Real estate
  6. Medical information.

If you are found guilty of identity theft, the district attorney must be able to prove that you did so knowingly—that is, without the alleged victim’s permission—without making a mistake or acting under duress and that you used their information to buy goods or services. This can involve both the victim’s own property, such as money obtained from an ATM and the property of a third party, such as using the victim’s credit card to make purchases at a store.

Because of its broad definition, identity theft can refer to a wide range of situations, many of which are seemingly innocent. Here are a few typical mistakes people make:

Assuming a victim had consented

In some instances, defendants thought they acted honorably and with the victims’ permission. This can include companies that opened an account, made purchases or sold real estate using a client’s personal or financial information. Unauthorized charges can occasionally occur as a result of contract misreading, a misplaced email, or the early termination of a contract by the defendant. Although companies should always follow the right procedures and openly address these issues with customers, a simple typing error does not warrant a criminal conviction.

Making an error after divorce

When separating a household during a divorce, the parties must take several steps that can be time-consuming and stressful. Most couples share financial services like insurance, bank accounts, retirement funds, etc. You might still have access to their information if you needed to divide these accounts clearly and discuss who owns what. You could unintentionally “steal” your ex’s identity if you try to use their credit or health insurance without realizing that they have sole ownership following the divorce. Even though you may not have meant to misrepresent yourself, an irate ex may not be interested in hearing your side of the story and still press charges against you.

Digital device sharing

Nowadays, families frequently save private data on their laptops, tablets, and smartphones, for example, using auto-fill software. This can include billing addresses, credit card numbers, and login information for online services. If roommates freely share laptops, access the same network, or use the same accounts, they could unintentionally access personal information or make purchases. This can sometimes result in accidentally accessing a roommate’s Netflix account, but it can also result in accidentally signing important documents with their social security number or other personal information.

Public computer access

Identity theft can happen accidentally when two or more people use the same public computer, as in the scenario above. There are public computers available for users to log in and manage their own affairs in libraries, hotels, and internet cafés. Someone else may access their information if they forget to log out of an account or unintentionally save it on a public network. Some people actively use these open networks to steal information and make unauthorized purchases. Still, other people do it unintentionally because they are unaware that they are logged into someone else’s account or are using a saved credit card. Always double-check the login information on a public computer to prevent unintentionally stealing someone’s information.

Need a California lawyer experienced in Identity Theft?

Some of California’s and our country’s most complicated legal frameworks apply to white-collar crimes. Due to simple errors, completely innocent people frequently find themselves in violation of these laws.If you need the help of an experienced California lawyer, call (949) 726-6000 today.