Have you ever wondered what happens when someone gets hold of your social security number, driver’s license, date of birth, passwords, login usernames, or other information?
There are several crimes in South Carolina that cover this situation – for example, the simple act of obtaining someone else’s personal identifying information, even if you do not use it, could get you arrested and charged with the crime of financial identity fraud in SC.
In this article you will learn about:
- What identity theft looks like,
- The SC crimes of identity fraud, financial identity fraud, and financial transaction card fraud, and
- The potential penalties if you are convicted for an identity theft type crime in SC.
First, what is identity theft in SC and what types of criminal charges cover it?
Identity Theft in SC: What is It?
Identity theft in SC is covered by the crimes of financial identity fraud and identity fraud.
In general, identify theft is when a person takes personal identifying information from someone else and they intend to use it either for their own personal financial gain or to use the other person’s identity to apply for employment or to avoid detection by law enforcement.
Both financial identity fraud and identity fraud are found in SC Code Section 16-13-510.
Types of Identity Theft in SC
Financial Identity Fraud
Financial identity fraud is when a person 1) “obtains or records identifying information which would assist in accessing the financial records of” another person or 2) access or attempts to access the other person’s financial resources using their personal identifying information.
Other elements of the crime that must be proven include 1) the obtaining or the use of the information was done without authorization or consent, and 2) the defendant (accused person) intended to:
- Use the information to appropriate the alleged victim’s financial resources for their own use or a third person’s use,
- Use the information to come up with a plan to defraud the alleged victim, or
- Use the information to obtain “money, property, or services by means of false or fraudulent pretenses, representations, or promises” (which would also be the separate crime of obtaining property by false pretenses).
Note that the state does not have to prove that you used the information – only that you intended to use the information for the purposes above.
Identity fraud is a separate type of identity theft crime that is prohibited under Section 16-13-510. It is when a person uses another person’s identifying information to:
- Obtain employment, or
- Avoid detection by law enforcement or a government agency.
What types of personal identifying information qualify under the statute for purposes of either identity fraud or financial identity fraud?
Financial Transaction Card Fraud in SC
Another form of identity theft in SC is credit card fraud, which is covered by separate criminal statutes.
They are related to identity theft but they are separate crimes. For example, if you take someone’s account number, date of birth, and social security number with the intent to use it to create a fake credit card to access their bank account, you may be charged with financial identity fraud even if you have not yet used the information.
If you then use that information to create or use a forged credit card, you may also be charged with the separate crimes of financial transaction card forgery and financial transaction card fraud.
Other related financial/ identity theft crimes include:
- Financial transaction card theft – taking a bank card or a credit card number without consent and with the intent to use it,
- Financial transaction card forgery – making a fake bank card, altering a bank card, or signing a bank card with the intent to access someone else’s funds,
- Financial transaction card fraud – knowingly using a bank card that was “forged, altered, expired, revoked, or was obtained as a result of a fraudulent application” to “obtain money, goods, services, or anything else of value,”
- Possession of financial transaction card forgery devices (there are machines that can be used to manufacture fake credit cards), and
- Receiving goods or services that were fraudulently obtained through financial transaction card fraud.
Personal Identifying Information
The “personal identifying information” referred to in the statute could include (but is not limited to):
- Social security numbers,
- Driver's license numbers or state ID card numbers,
- Bank account numbers,
- Personal identification (PIN) numbers,
- Electronic ID numbers,
- Digital signatures,
- Dates of birth,
- A person’s names when the names are used in combination with, and linked to, other identifying information,
- A person’s addresses when the addresses are used in combination with, and linked to, other identifying information, or
- Other numbers, passwords, or information which may be used to access a person's financial resources, or information that identifies an individual or an individual's financial resources.
There are some other important definitions in SC law. For example, what do they mean by “financial resources?”
For purposes of identity theft laws in SC, “financial resources” includes:
- Money that is in a bank account,
- Pension plans, retirement plans, annuities, or other sources of periodic payments, or
- Lines of credit.
Examples of Identity Theft in SC
Some examples of things that law enforcement in SC may consider identity theft include:
- Taking another person’s bank account numbers, social security number, or any of the personal identifying information listed above (note you don’t have to use it – just taking the information may qualify as financial identity fraud),
- Pretending to be a bank or government representative to obtain someone else’s personal identifying information with the intent to use the information to access their money,
- Using someone else’s identity to apply for a job because you have a criminal record,
- Using another person’s identity to avoid arrest or detection by law enforcement, or
- Giving law enforcement another person’s identifying information when you are arrested.
Penalties for Identity Theft in SC
Both forms of identity theft in SC – identity fraud and financial identity fraud – are felonies that carry up to ten years and/or a fine at the discretion of the court. The Court will also order that you pay restitution to any victims in the case.
Need Help with Identity Theft Charges in SC?
If you have been charged with any type of identity theft or financial transaction card crimes in SC, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately – before you talk to police or investigators.