NATIONALLY RECOGNIZED FEDERAL LAWYERS
Last Updated on: 6th August 2023, 02:24 am
The Peril of Social Security Number Theft
Social security fraud is a rather serious crime in the United States. Often it is the foundation for numerous cases of identity theft. Due to the fact that his Social Security Number (SSN) is the most important piece of identity that an American citizen can possess, if a thief takes another person’s social security card, that thief can open bank accounts, sell the identity to undocumented workers, get medical care, make fraudulent filings for tax refunds, apply for unemployment or Social Security benefits, or commit crimes. In this latter scenario, if the thief is apprehended, he/she may tangle the victim into his/her criminal history.
Pursuant to Title 18, U.S. Code, Section 1028, it is a federal offense to “knowingly transfer or use, without lawful authority, a means of identification of another person with the intent to commit, or to aid or abet, any unlawful activity that constitutes a violation of federal law, or that constitutes a felony under any applicable state or local law.” As such, if you’re the target of an investigation or have been arrested for social security card fraud, you could be looking at some very serious penalties in federal courts.
With the growth of internet use and the sheer volume of personal data on it, identity theft is one of the most rapidly growing crimes in America. Moreover, since Social Security card thieves can inflict substantial and long-term damage on their victims, whether via their credit reports or other sensitive aspects of their identities, the FBI and numerous other federal agencies take identity theft very seriously.
Title 18, U.S. Code, Section 1028, also referred to as “fraud and related activity in connection with identification documents,” details the several ways that an individual can violate this federal law using Social Security cards, including:
- Producing a falsified Social Security card
- Transferring a card with the knowledge that it was stolen or produced without lawful authority
- Producing, transferring, or possessing a document-making device
- Transferring, possessing, or using the identity of another person to commit a crime
- Trafficking false or stolen Social Security documents
Pursuant to this federal statute, people who are convicted of any of the above crimes will be in peril of imprisonment for not more than 15 years. An individual could be looking at up to five years imprisonment for the following crimes:
- Possessing with intent to use or transfer five or more counterfeit Social Security cards
- Being in possession of a false or stolen card with the intent of defrauding the United States
- Aggravated Identity Theft Offenses
The seriousness of an identity theft offense is greatly dependent upon the actions the alleged offender took with respect to the stolen Social Security card. For example, if a person utilizes a false or stolen social security card to carry out or facilitate domestic or international terrorism, then that person could be facing incarceration for up to 30 years.
Additionally, the alleged offender could be looking at up to 20 years imprisonment if he/she committed any of the following offenses with stolen or fraudulent Social Security information, including:
- Facilitating drug trafficking activity
- Committing a violent offense in connection with the fraud
- Committing fraud after a prior, similar offense has become final
To further prosecute incidents of Social Security card fraud and identity theft, the federal government enacted the Identity Theft Penalty Enhancement Act of 2004. There are numerous features of this Act that expand prosecuting powers, increase ease of conviction, and push the length of punishments for identity theft convicts.