Identity theft has been a growing problem for years. Factors driving the increased prosecution of these types of cases is greater awareness of protecting personal information, the increasing use of identity theft in furtherance of undocumented labor, and the improved electronic security systems that are being implemented in the public and private sectors.
Both Kansas and Missouri have a specific set of statutes that are used to prosecute identity theft crimes, which are similar in some ways but different in others. There are also federal criminal penalties for identity theft.
Under Missouri’s laws, a person commits the crime of identity theft by possessing, using, or transferring (or attempting to possess, use, or transfer) the means of identification belonging to another with the intent to deceive or defraud (obtain something of value by deception). RSMo. Section 570.223.
“Means of identification” is another way of saying “personal identifying information” and includes such things as social security numbers, drivers licenses, passports, birth certificates, bank accounts, credit cards, and any other information used to gain access to financial accounts. Simply taking the information, with the intent to deceive or defraud, is enough to complete the crime, even if the information is never used.
Missouri also has a law which forbids the obtaining of a credit device by fraud. Under RSMo. Section 570.135, it is a crime to (1) make a false statement regarding another person to procure a credit or debit card, or (2) to use another person’s personal identifying information (name, address, telephone number, driver’s license number, social security number, place of employment, mother’s maiden name, bank account number, or credit card number) to buy or try to buy goods or services or obtain credit in the victim’s name without the victim’s consent. This law was primarily designed to target people who use others’ information to open false accounts or gain access to services.
In Missouri, it is a crime to use or possess means of identification in order to manufacture or sell false identification to people under the age of 21 for the purpose of purchasing alcohol. A teenager who possesses a fake identification card in order to visit bars has not committed identity fraud, but the person who made and sold the card may have committed a crime. RSMo. Section 570.223.
A person who manufactures, transfers, buys, sells, or possesses with intent to sell means of identification in order to commit identity fraud commits the crime of trafficking in stolen identities. Possession of five or more means of identification for one person or the means of identification for five or more people without the victims’ consent and other than the defendant’s own means of identification is considered evidence of intent to commit identity theft. RSMo. Section 570.224.)
The punishment for identity theft in Missouri depends on the amount of the resulting loss. For example, identity theft that results in theft of more than $50,000 is a class A felony, punishable by a minimum of 10 years in prison and a maximum of 30 years’ or life imprisonment. Identity theft that does not result in any losses is a class B misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $500. For second and subsequent convictions, the penalties can be enhanced. Trafficking in stolen identities is a class B felony. It is a Class A misdemeanor to (1) make a false statement in order to obtain a credit or debit card; or (2) use a person’s personal identifying information to buy things or obtain credit without the person’s consent, or (3) use or possess means of identification in order to make false identification cards for minors. See RSMo. Section 570.135, 570.223, and 570.224. Class A misdemeanors are punishable by up to one year in jail, a fine of up to $1,000, or both.
The relevant statutes are:
Making false information (K.S.A. 21-3711), forgery (21-3710), false impersonation (21-3824), and dealing in false documents (21-3830).
In Kansas, “identity theft” is defined as obtaining, possessing, transferring, using, selling, or buying another individual’s personal identifying information in order to (1) defraud anyone for the defendant’s benefit, or (2) impersonate or misrepresent the individual, causing economic or bodily harm. See K.S.A. 21-6107.
In Kansas, however, “identity fraud” is distinguished from “identity theft.” Identity fraud is defined as (1) using false information in order to obtain a document that contains personal identifying information, or (2) altering, counterfeiting, copying, or manufacturing a document that contains personal identifying information with the intent to deceive. See K.S.A. 21-6107.
In Kansas, it is also a crime to (1) supply false information to obtain a copy of a vital record, or (2) manufacture, counterfeit, or alter any vital record, or (3) possess, obtain, or sell a vital record, intending to use it to deceive, or (4) copy, manufacture, or sell identification documents (including driver’s licenses, bank or credit cards, vital records, and social security cards) that contain fictitious names or false information. “Vital records” include birth, death, marriage, and divorce certificates. The primary intent here was to stop the trafficking in false records and documents.
Identity theft that results in monetary loss of more than $100,000 is a severity level 5 felony. Otherwise, identity theft, as well as identity fraud, dealing in false identification documents, and vital records fraud, is a severity level 8 felony. But Kansas’s sentencing guidelines mean that possible punishments can differ from case to case, depending on a large number of factors.
The Department of Justice prosecutes cases of identity theft and fraud under a variety of federal statutes. In the fall of 1998, for example, Congress passed the Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act. This legislation created a new offense of identity theft, which prohibits “knowingly transfer[ring] or us[ing], without lawful authority, a means of identification of another person with the intent to commit, or to aid or abet, any unlawful activity that constitutes a violation of Federal law, or that constitutes a felony under any applicable State or local law.”
18 U.S.C. § 1028(a)(7). This offense, in most situations, carries a maximum term of 15 years’ imprisonment, a fine, and criminal forfeiture of any personal property used or intended to be used to commit the offense.
Schemes to commit identity theft or fraud may also involve violations of other statutes such as identification fraud (18 U.S.C. § 1028), credit card fraud (18 U.S.C. § 1029), computer fraud (18 U.S.C. § 1030), mail fraud (18 U.S.C. § 1341), wire fraud (18 U.S.C. § 1343), or financial institution fraud (18 U.S.C. § 1344). Each of these federal offenses are felonies that carry substantial penalties in some cases, as high as 30 years’ imprisonment, fines, and criminal forfeiture.
If you have been accused of an identity-related crime at the state or federal level, or are the victim of such a crime, it is important to consult with an attorney experienced in handling these cases. Call us for a free consultation.
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