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What you need to know if you are accused of identity theft

The advances in modern technology have made it much easier for consumers to use electronic methods in which to transfer their money. This is true whether you are shopping for clothes online using a credit card or withdrawing money from an ATM using a debit card. The tremendous advantages provided by these convenient and efficient payment methods also makes them vulnerable to exploitation.

Generally, identity theft is the possession, use, or sale of someone else's personally identifying information in order to illegally obtain some personal benefit. A typical example of this might occur when a restaurant employee sells copies of customers' credit card receipts to someone else. Or when someone posing as a tax preparer uses someone else's personal information to divert their state or federal taxes.

The state legislature has taken a major step to prevent identity theft and fraud throughout the state by enacting a specific statute against those crimes. Here are some of the more important aspects of that law:

-- Identity theft and fraud is not just limited to credit cards or drivers licenses. The laws also extend to email accounts, social media passwords, digital signatures and even some biometric data. Basically, just about anything that is personally identifying and restricts use or access.

-- The sell, transfer or purchase of personally identifying information can be considered trafficking if you did so with the intent to commit fraud.

-- If you are convicted of these crimes a judge can order you to make restitution and repay any of the proceeds related to the crimes committed.

Criminal defendants need to know that they have a constitutionally protected right to have an attorney with them during police questioning. This can help you avoid making statements which might place you in greater jeopardy of incarceration, fines and other penalties. Additionally, your attorney can negotiate with prosecutors on your behalf in attempts to exchange your guilty plea for a reduction of the charges you currently face.

Source: The General Assembly of North Carolina, "Article 19C. Identity Theft," accessed June 03, 2015

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