Identity Theft Law & Legal Definition


Identity theft is govened by federal and state criminal statutes. State laws vary, but typically define the crime to include an intent to use another's identity to commit, aid, or abet any unlawful activity. A person commits the crime of identity theft if, without the authorization, consent, or permission of the victim, and with the intent to defraud for his or her own benefit or the benefit of a third person, he or she does any of the following:

  1. Obtains, records, or accesses identifying information that would assist in accessing financial resources, obtaining identification documents, or obtaining benefits of the victim.
  2. Obtains goods or services through the use of identifying information of the victim.
  3. Obtains identification documents in the victim's name.

Identity theft statutes vary by state and usually do not include use of false identification by a minor to obtain liquor, tobacco, or entrance to adult business establishments. The types of information protected from misuse by identity theft statutes includes, among others:

  • Name
  • Date of birth
  • Social Security number
  • Driver's license number
  • Financial services account numbers, including checking and savings accounts
  • Credit or debit card numbers
  • Personal identification numbers (PIN)
  • Electronic identification codes
  • Automated or electronic signatures
  • Biometric data
  • Fingerprints
  • Passwords
  • Parent's legal surname prior to marriage

The following is an example of one state's laws governing identity theft: "609.527 Identity theft.

Subdivision 1. Definitions.

  1. As used in this section, the following terms have the meanings given them in this subdivision.
  2. "Direct victim" means any person or entity described in section 611A.01, paragraph (b), whose identity has been transferred, used, or possessed in violation of this section.
  3. "Identity" means any name, number, or data transmission that may be used, alone or in conjunction with any other information, to identify a specific individual, including any of the following:
  1. a name, Social Security number, date of birth, official government-issued driver's license or identification number, government passport number, or employer or taxpayer identification number;
  2. unique electronic identification number, address, account number, or routing code; or
  3. telecommunication identification information or access device.

d. "Indirect victim" means any person or entity described in section 611A.01, paragraph (b), other than a direct victim.

e. "Loss" means value obtained, as defined in section 609.52, subdivision 1, clause (3), and expenses incurred by a direct or indirect victim as a result of a violation of this section.

f. "Unlawful activity" means:

  1. any felony violation of the laws of this state or any felony violation of a similar law of another state or the United States; and
  2. any nonfelony violation of the laws of this state involving theft, theft by swindle, forgery, fraud, or giving false information to a public official, or any nonfelony violation of a similar law of another state or the United States.

Subd. 2. Crime. A person who transfers, possesses, or uses an identity that is not the person's own, with the intent to commit, aid, or abet any unlawful activity is guilty of identity theft and may be punished as provided in subdivision 3.

Subd. 3. Penalties. A person who violates subdivision 2 may be sentenced as follows:

  1. if the offense involves a single direct victim and the total, combined loss to the direct victim and any indirect victims is $250 or less, the person may be sentenced as provided in section 609.52, subdivision 3, clause (5);
  2. if the offense involves a single direct victim and the total, combined loss to the direct victim and any indirect victims is more than $250 but not more than $500, the person may be sentenced as provided in section 609.52, subdivision 3, clause (4);
  3. if the offense involves two or three direct victims or the total, combined loss to the direct and indirect victims is more than $500 but not more than $2,500, the person may be sentenced as provided in section 609.52, subdivision 3, clause (3);
  4. if the offense involves more than three but not more than seven direct victims, or if the total combined loss to the direct and indirect victims is more than $2,500, the person may be sentenced as provided in section 609.52, subdivision 3, clause (2); and
  5. if the offense involves eight or more direct victims, or if the total, combined loss to the direct and indirect victims is more than $35,000, the person may be sentenced as provided in section 609.52, subdivision 3, clause (1).

Subd. 4. Restitution. A direct or indirect victim of an identity theft crime shall be considered a victim for all purposes, including any rights that accrue under chapter 611A and rights to court-ordered restitution.

Subd. 5. Reporting.

  1. A person who has learned or reasonably suspects that a person is a direct victim of a crime under subdivision 2 may initiate a law enforcement investigation by contacting the local law enforcement agency that has jurisdiction where the person resides, regardless of where the crime may have occurred. The agency must prepare a police report of the matter, provide the complainant with a copy of that report, and may begin an investigation of the facts, or, if the suspected crime was committed in a different jurisdiction, refer the matter to the law enforcement agency where the suspected crime was committed for an investigation of the facts.

  2. If a law enforcement agency refers a report to the law enforcement agency where the crime was committed, it need not include the report as a crime committed in its jurisdiction for purposes of information that the agency is required to provide to the commissioner of public safety pursuant to section 299C.06.

Subd. 6. Venue. Notwithstanding anything to the contrary in section 627.01, an offense committed under subdivision 2 may be prosecuted in:

  1. the county where the offense occurred; or
  2. the county of residence or place of business of the direct victim or indirect victim.

Subd. 7. Aggregation. In any prosecution under subdivision 2, the value of the money or property or services the defendant receives or the number of direct or indirect victims within any six-month period may be aggregated and the defendant charged accordingly in applying the provisions of subdivision 3; provided that when two or more offenses are committed by the same person in two or more counties, the accused may be prosecuted in any county in which one of the offenses was committed for all of the offenses aggregated under this subdivision."