A Primer on Identity Theft & Fraud
In Colorado, a range of illegal actions can lead to a fraud charge. Fraud is considered a “white-collar crime,” which is defined as an act of deception to secure unlawful or unfair financial or personal gain. A fraudulent act can lead to both criminal and civil charges. In cases of high-value losses, the damaged party may have the right to seek restitution through civil court.
There are five elements to prove a person guilty of fraud:
- The accused person misrepresented a material fact.
- He or she was aware of the misrepresentation of fact.
- There was an intent to deceive.
- Reasonable reliance: Another party relied on the falsehood to take action (such as approving a loan).
- Actual losses: The other party sustained damages as a result.
Types of Fraud and Identity Theft
An act of fraud could be as simple as providing false information on a job application or credit application, or as serious as falsifying accounting records. Fraud crimes vary in severity and can be charged as petty offenses, misdemeanors, or felonies. The penalties will reflect the value of the financial damage to the other party. Some of the most common identity theft and fraud crimes include the following, as listed by the Colorado Bureau of Investigation:
- Identity Theft: A person uses another party’s personal information for financial gain.
- Medical Identity Theft: Another person’s personal information is used to gain access to medical services, prescription medications, or any other treatment.
- Employment Identity Theft: A person uses another’s Social Security number to gain employment or governmental benefits.
- Tax Identity Theft: A tax return is filed using another person’s personal information to gain a tax refund.
- Business Identity Theft: When a person uses the business information owned by another party to obtain credit, or creates fraudulent websites to receive online payments, or gain the personal information of others to sell or use for other types of financial fraud.
- Prescription Fraud: When prescription medication is obtained fraudulently, such as by using another’s identity, altering a prescription, or providing a false name or address.
- Insurance Fraud: Filing false claims to recover compensation for an injury by misrepresenting the facts, such as the degree of the injury or other damage.
The penalties imposed on a person who is convicted of fraud can vary widely. For offenses involving smaller amounts of money, such as purchases with another person’s credit card, writing bad checks, or check kiting that leads to low-value financial losses, the fine could be as low as $50 or as high as $5,000, plus 18 months in jail. Cases involving prescription fraud carry much harsher penalties, including up to 24 years in state prison and fines up to $1,000,000.
How Closely Is Fraud Tied to Theft?
Theft is when one party “knowingly obtains or exercises control over” another party’s property, without permission, without any intention to return the property. Fraud is essentially a type of theft, which involves gaining another’s property, such as credit, funding, or services, by using another party’s personal information.
Additional Federal Offenses
In many cases, other offenses may be tacked on to a fraud crime. Submitting false information to gain credit by mail may lead to an additional charge of mail fraud. If a digital device was used to send false information to get credit, it could result in an additional charge of wire fraud. To defend against a federal crime, you must be represented by a criminal defense attorney admitted to practice in federal court.
Why Choose The Bussey Law Firm, P.C.?
If you are accused of identity theft or any fraud offense, you are facing a long and frightening journey through the Colorado criminal justice system. To avoid incarceration and fines, it must be proven that you were not responsible for the other party’s losses, whether it was a case of mistaken identity, entrapment, or an honest error on your part.
Tim Bussey has achieved the honor of being listed as one of the Top 100 by the National Trial Lawyers Association, been rated AV-Preeminent by Martindale-Hubbell, ranked 10 Superb on Avvo, and listed as a Top Attorney in Colorado by the Denver Post. As a trial lawyer, he has the skills, experience, and talent to craft a persuasive case to defend against a fraud or identity theft charge. For a free initial consultation, call (719) 475-2555 today.