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What are the penalties for identity theft?

The Internet provides anonymity to everyone. Sitting behind the computer, no one really truly knows who they are talking to. This anonymity may be the reason identity theft is increasing steadily across the country. Rather than go to the bank with someone else's identification cards, now bank accounts can be opened from one's own home.

However, stealing someone's identity is a crime that is treated very severely across the country, including Ohio. In fact, in Ohio, it is categorized in five degrees, which is dependent on the financial loss someone suffered and the characteristics of the victim. Before looking at the categorization, it is important to understand what identity theft is broadly. Identity theft is when someone is accused of using another person's identity, such as their social security number and other identifying information, to open bank accounts in that person's name fraudulently.

As per Ohio Revised Codes, identity theft in the fifth degree is for the most minor of offenses, including those where there is no financial loss and a convicted person faces six to twelve months in prison and a $25,000 fine. A fourth degree felony takes place when the financial loss suffered is less than $7500 and if convicted, the defendant faces six to 18 months in prison with a $5,000 fine.

The penalties jump in severity after this. Where the monetary loss is between $7500 and $150,000, a person could face anywhere from nine months in prison to 10 years and a $10,000 fine. Where the victim is elderly, disabled or a member of the armed forces and the loss is between $7500 and $150,000, a person could face up to 8 years in prison. Finally, a first-degree felony takes place if an elderly, disabled or serviceman has been defrauded more than $150,000. The penalty for a first-degree felony could be up to $20,000 as a fine and up to 11 years in prison.

Though the penalties start out low, they become very harsh from third degree felony onwards. As mentioned previously, felonies show up on a person's background check, making it difficult to find educational or employment opportunities. This is why white-collar crimes, such as identity theft and other Internet crimes, should be taken seriously from the onset. Asserting a strategic and aggressive defense could help a defendant reduce or even dismiss the charges against them.

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