Identity theft is the fraudulent use of another person’s name and personal data for economic gain or to damage their reputation and credit history. Identity theft often results in stressful situations and consumers are encouraged to protect their personal information at all times.
California laws (California Penal Code Section 530.5-530.55) prohibit obtaining the personal data and information of another person with the intention of using that information for malicious and unlawful purposes. The law also forbids the sale or transfer of another person’s personally identifying information with criminal intent.
In an identity theft case, the prosecutor is tasked with proving to the court that the defendant willfully obtained the personally identifying information and used it for unlawful purposes without the owner’s consent. These activities include;
- Apply for credit
- Obtain goods and property
- Request medical information
The California Penal Code lists personally-identifying information that may be stolen or used during identity theft crimes. These are;
- Victims name
- Social security number
- Taxpayer identification number
- Passport number
- Driver’s license number
- Address and phone number
- Bank account numbers
- Banking PINs
- Credit card numbers
- Retina and iris images
Although identity theft is a common occurrence in California, there are several measures one can take to prevent identity theft. The following is a list of steps one can take to prevent their information from falling into unauthorized hands;
- Keep your personal records safe. You are advised to shred documents containing sensitive before throwing them away. When mailing your documents, ensure to place them in a secure post office drop box or place them in the hands of postal employees.
- Carry what is necessary only.
- Keep your social security number safe
- Be cautious when providing personal information over the phone
- Keep your passwords secure.
- Protect your computers and phones.
Identity theft in California is punishable by
- A fine
- Imprisonment in a county jail for a term of up to one year
- Both a fine and term in county jail
- An increased sentence based on the defendant’s prior criminal record