North Carolina Identity Theft Laws

People in North Carolina commit the crime of identity theft by taking or using some one else’s personal identifying information for their own gain. Oftentimes, identity theft, also called identity fraud, is committed when a person “steals” personal information from public records, online sources, mail, trash, or wallets and uses the information to access the victim’s bank and credit accounts or open new accounts in the victim’s name.

For general information on the crime of identity theft, see Identity Theft Law.

Under North Carolina’s laws, a person commits the crime of identity theft by obtaining, possessing, or using someone else’s personal identifying information in order to:

  • make financial or credit transactions in the victim’s name
  • obtain anything of value or any benefit or advantage, or
  • avoid any legal consequences.

The defendant must intend to fraudulently impersonate the defendant. For example, a person who uses a roommate’s credit card with permission to pay the water bill has not committed identity theft. However, a person who steals someone else’s social security number to apply for government aid in the other person’s name has committed identity theft.

Identifying information includes a person’s:

  • social security number
  • driver’s license or state identification number
  • checking or savings account number
  • credit or debit card number
  • password, personal identification number, or electronic signature
  • fingerprints or other biometric data
  • mother’s maiden name, or
  • any other numbers or information that can be used to access a person's financial accounts.

(N.C. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 14-113.20.)

Trafficking in Stolen Identities

It is also a crime in North Carolina to sell, buy, or transfer identifying information with the intent to commit or attempt to commit identity theft. For example, buying a stolen driver’s license could result in a conviction for trafficking in stolen identities.

(N.C. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 14-113.20A.)

Punishment

In North Carolina, courts sentence defendants based on the severity of the crime and the defendant’s criminal record, if any. Identity theft is a Class G felony, punishable by eight to 31 months in prison. If the victim is arrested or convicted as a result of the crime, or the defendant possesses the identifying information of three or more people, then identity theft is a Class F felony, punishable by ten to 41 months in prison. Trafficking in stolen identities is a Class E felony, punishable by 15 to 63 months’ imprisonment. In addition to any prison term, the court may also impose a fine. The court can also order the defendant to pay restitution to the victim for any money the victim loses as a result of the crime, including out-of-pocket expenses, lost wages, attorneys' fees, and any other costs associated with correcting the victim’s credit history or responding to any lawsuits or collection actions.

(N.C. Gen. Stat. Ann. § § 14-113.20, 14-113.20A, 14-113.22, 15A-1340.17.)

Obtaining Legal Assistance

A conviction for identity theft or trafficking in personal information can have serious consequences. If you are charged with a crime, you should consult with a North Carolina criminal defense attorney. An attorney can tell you what to expect in court and how to best prepare your case to protect your rights.

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