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Identity Theft is a Serious Crime in Pennsylvania

Posted By Cliff Tuttle | July 30, 2008

Posted by Cliff Tuttle

In Pennsylvania, the crime of Identity Theft is defined by statute. “A person commits the offense of identity theft of another person if he possesses or uses, through any means, identifying information of another person without the consent of that other person to further any unlawful purpose.”

Each time the identifying information is used, a separate offense is committed. However, the total values involved in the separate offenses, pursuant to one scheme or course of conduct, may be aggregated in determining the grade of the offense.

The value of the property involved determines the grade of the offense. When the total value is less than $2,000, the offense is a misdemeanor of the first degree. But if the value exceeds $2,000 or is committed in furtherance of a criminal conspiracy, the offense is a felony of the third degree. A third offense, regardless of the amount involved, is a felony of the second degree.

If the offense is committed against a person who is age 60 or older or is a care-dependent person, the grade of the offense is increased one grade.

The document or information need not be stolen. If a drivers licence is lost and then used by one someone who found it, the use is presumed to be without consent, and thus, identity theft.

The most effective way for a consumer to protect against unauthorized information being used to open credit cards is to institute a security freeze. Pennsylvania law requires the three credit reporting agencies (Trans Union, Experian and Equifax) to freeze access to your credit card files if you give them written instructions and pay a $10.00 fee. This means that even if a potential identity theif has your personal information, he can’t use it to obtain a credit card because the card issuer won’t be able to check your credit unless you “un-freeze” the account. Instructions on where to contact the credit reporting agencies can be found here