Under Nebraska’s laws, people commit the crime of identity theft by taking or using other people’s identifying information for their own gain. Oftentimes, identity thieves “steal” a person’s identifying information from public records, online sources, or from trash, mail, or personal documents and use the information to access the victim’s financial accounts or establish new accounts to run up debt and ruin the victim’s credit. Nebraska also has laws against criminal impersonation and counterfeiting or possessing counterfeit identity documents.
For general information on the crime of identity theft, see Identity Theft Law.
Under Nebraska’s laws, people commit the crime of identity theft by taking, possessing, or using the personal identifying information belonging to someone else without the victim’s permission or creating any personal identifying information for a fictional person for their own gain.
Personal identifying information is any name or number used to identify a particular person. Examples of personal identifying information include:
- social security numbers and driver’s license numbers
- bank and credit card account numbers, and
- birth dates and mother’s maiden names.
For example, using someone else’s social security number to file a tax return and claim a refund is identity theft. (Neb. Stat. Rev. Ann. §§ 28-636, 28-639.)
While many states use the terms identity theft and identity fraud interchangeably, identity fraud is a distinct crime in Nebraska. Identity fraud is committed by:
- making, changing, or counterfeiting a personal identification document, or
- possessing, using, or transferring to another a personal identification document for the purpose of deceiving others.
Personal identification documents include, but are not limited to, birth certificates, passports, driver’s license and state identification cards, employee identification cards, work permits, and social security cards. For example, a teenager who alters the age listed on her driver’s license has committed identity fraud in Nebraska. (Neb. Stat. Rev. Ann. §§ 28-636, 28-640.)
A person in Nebraska commits the crime of criminal impersonation by:
- pretending to represent a person or organization for the defendant’s own gain, for someone else’s gain, or to deceive or harm
- engaging in any profession, business, or occupation without the required license, or
- providing false personal identifying information or documentation to a court, law enforcement officer, or to gain employment.
For example, an undocumented worker who uses a fake social security number or card to obtain a job has committed criminal impersonation, as has a doctor who practices medicine after losing his or her state medical license. (Neb. Stat. Rev. Ann. §§ 28-636, 28-638.)
Identity fraud is a Class I misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail or a fine up to $1,000, or both. Criminal impersonation to obtain a job is a Class II misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months in jail or a fine up to $1,000, or both. Providing false information or documentation to a court or law enforcement officer is a Class IV felony, punishable by up to five years in prison or a fine up to $10,000, or both.
The punishments for other types of criminal impersonation and for identity theft vary based on the amount of gain (or attempted gain) to the defendant. If the defendant gains or attempts to gain nothing of value, the crime is a Class II misdemeanor; if the defendant gains or attempts to gain $1,500 or more worth of credit, goods, or services, the crime is a Class III felony, punishable one to 20 years in prison or fine up to $25,000, or both.
The court may also order a defendant convicted of identity theft, identity fraud, or criminal impersonation to pay restitution to the victim for any losses sustained as a result of the crime. Second and subsequent convictions for identity theft and related crimes are punished more severely.
(Neb. Stat. Rev. Ann. §§ 28-638, 28-639, 28-640.)
Obtaining Legal Assistance
A conviction for identity theft or a related crime can have serious consequences. If you are charged with identity theft, you should contact a Nebraska criminal defense attorney to talk about your case. An attorney can tell you what to expect in court and how to protect your rights.