Identity theft is a crime that involves taking and using another person’s identity to obtain credit, open bank accounts, or commit similarly deceitful acts. It also can include selling or transferring another person’s identifying information, such as a Social Security number, driver’s license number, or birth date, for illegal purposes. Using another person’s bank account or credit card without permission to make purchases or obtain money is also often considered an identity theft crime.
In Georgia, identity theft is known as “identity fraud.” Georgia also has extensive laws addressing credit card theft and fraud.
In Georgia, it is a felony to intentionally and fraudulently
- possess or use another person’s identifying information without the person’s consent and with intent to commit fraud
- use the identifying information of a person under the age of eighteen who is in the user’s custody
- possess or use identifying information for a person who is dead, with intent to defraud
- create, possess, or use false identifying information for a fictitious person, with intent to use the information to commit fraud or any other crime
- create, possess, or use counterfeit or false identifying information concerning a real person, with intent to use the information to commit fraud or any other crime, or
- accept identification information that known to be counterfeit, fictitious, fraudulent, or stolen, to be used for identification purposes.
Georgia’s identity fraud law does not apply to a person younger than 21 who uses a fake ID to buy alcohol, get into a bar, or do some other act that is prohibited for a person under age 21. Other criminal statutes may apply to this kind of behavior.
Identity fraud is a felony in Georgia punishable by one to ten years in prison, a fine up to $100,000, or both. If the conviction is a second or subsequent offense, the required sentence is three to 15 years, a fine up to $250,000, or both. (Ga. Code Ann. § 16-9-121.)
Aggravated identity fraud
Aggravated identity fraud in Georgia consists of intentionally and fraudulently using fake identifying information about a real, fictitious, or dead person in order to obtain employment. This crime is a felony, punishable by one to 15 years in prison, a fine up to $250,000, or both. (Ga. Code Ann. § 16-9-121.1.)
Using false representations electronically to get someone’s identifying information
It is a crime in Georgia to pretend to be a business and use any electronic means to trick someone into giving you personal identifying information (such as date of birth, tax payer identification number, or mother’s maiden name).
A common example of this criminal act is sending an email that appears to come from a bank, credit card company, or other business that requests that the recipient go to a web site and enter his name, account number, password, or other identifying information.
It also is a felony to possess information obtained through this kind of criminal act with the intent to sell or distribute the information or to use it to defraud someone.
Using false electronic means to obtain someone else’s personal information is a felony punishable by one to 20 years in prison, a fine between $1,000 and $500,000, or both. (Ga. Code. Ann. § 16-9-109.1.)
Credit Card Theft and Related Crimes
Financial transaction card theft
The crime of financial transaction card theft in Georgia consists of
- taking a financial transaction card (credit or debit card) from a cardholder without the person’s consent
- knowingly possessing a card taken from the cardholder without consent, with intent to use the card or sell it to a third person
- knowingly possessing a card that has been lost or delivered to the wrong person or address, with intent to use the card or sell it to a third party
- buying a card from another person, or
- during any 12 month period, possessing two or more lost, stolen or forged cards.
Financial transaction card theft is a felony in Georgia, punishable by one to three years in prison, a fine up to $5,000, or both. (Ga. Code Ann. § 16-9-31.)
Forgery of a financial transaction card
A person commits forgery of a financial transaction card in Georgia if she
- creates a false card with intent to defraud
- falsely embosses a card with intent to defraud (embossing involves putting information on a card such as a bank or creditor name, an account number, a date of expiration, or a security code), or
- falsely encodes a car with intent to defraud (for example, magnetically or electronically encoding a fake credit card number on the card’s magnetic strip).
Forgery of a financial transaction card is a felony punishable by one to three years in prison, a fine up to $5,000, or both. (Ga. Code Ann. § 16-9-32.)
Financial transaction card fraud
A person commits financial transaction card fraud in Georgia if he:
- uses a card, with intent to defraud, that he does not have permission to use, that contains an account number that does not exist, or that he knows is or was lost, stolen, forged, revoked, expired, or obtained by a fraudulent application
- takes control of a card that is not in his name as security for a debt
- uses an automated banking device (ATM machine or online banking, for example) to deposit a forged, altered, fictitious, or counterfeit check, money order, or other financial document that does not belong to him, or
- receives money, goods, or services as a result of a forged, fictitious, or counterfeit check, money order, or other financial document that does not belong to him being deposited into an account with his knowledge.
A person who accepts credit and debit cards as a business owner or employee also can commit financial transaction card theft if, with intent to defraud, the person
- accepts a card that is known to be stolen, forged, revoked, or expired,
- falsifies a card transaction receipt (making the charge a higher amount than the actual purchase, for example), or
- presents a transaction receipt to the card company for a purchase that did not actually occur.
Financial transaction card fraud is a felony in Georgia. If the crime involves a value of $100 or less, it is punishable by one to two years in prison, a fine up to $1,000, or both. If the crime involves a value over $100, it is punishable by one to three years in prison, a fine up to $5,000, or both. (Ga. Code. Ann. §16-9-33)
Consult an Attorney
If you are charged with or are being investigated for an identity theft crime, you should contact an attorney immediately. An experienced lawyer can advise you of your legal rights and determine whether you have any grounds for dismissal of the charges against you, explore plea options, or represent you at trial.