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Articles Posted in Identity Theft

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Identity%20Theft.jpgAn Orange County man has been sentenced to one year in federal prison after he admitted to stealing the identities and passwords of more than 700 fellow students at California State University, San Marcos (CSUSM). The Associated Press reports that the Huntington Beach resident was sentenced July 15 for wire fraud, unauthorized access of a computer and identity theft.

AP reports that the 22-year-old man stole the identities last year and utilized them to cast more than 600 votes for himself as student body president through the university’s online voting system. According to prosecutors, the man installed devices into campus computers in order to obtain students’ user names and passwords. The student body president at the university receives an annual salary of $8,000.

What is Identity Theft?

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In the recent case of The People v. Rolando S.,, the California Court of Appeal for the Fifth Appellate District held that for purposes of California Penal Code Section 530.5, an individual who unlawfully accesses a victim’s account on a social media website and alters the victim’s profile and posts obscene messages and comments on other people’s profiles from the victim’s account may be charged with either a misdemeanor or felony count of identity theft depending on the nature of the facts. California Penal Code Section 530.5 states that “every person who willfully obtains personal identifying information of another person and uses that information for any unlawful purpose including: obtaining, or attempting to obtain, credit, goods, services, real property, or medical information without the consent of that person, is guilty of the public offense of identity theft.”

In Rolando S., the defendant-a high school teen-received a text message which he neither solicited nor expected to receive which contained the password to a fellow students’ email account. The defendant used the victim’s email password to log-in to her email account and then proceeded to change her Facebook password. The defendant then logged-in to the victim’s Facebook account and posted sexually-explicit messages and comments on the profile pages of two of her male high school friends. The Court of Appeals noted that although the defendant did not “willfully” obtain the victim’s email account password, he “willfully” used the password to obtain access to and subsequently change the victim’s Facebook password, whereby the defendant then proceeded to commit an unlawful act by posting sexually-explicit material on the profiles of other Facebook users. The Court argued that the newly-amended phrase “any unlawful purpose” in PC 530.5 demonstrated the California Legislature’s intent to greatly expand the range and scope of unlawful conduct underlying the criminal offense of identity theft.

Since the defendant’s conduct of posting the sexually-explicit messages constituted libel-which is defined as a false and unprivileged publication by writing…which exposes any person to hatred, contempt, or ridicule or which causes the person to be shunned or avoided-the defendant committed an unlawful act under Penal Code Section 530.5 by illegally appropriating the victim’s identity and using it to commit libel which is a punishable criminal offense. Thus, the Fifth Appellate District upheld the defendant’s felony identity theft conviction on the grounds that Penal Code Section 530.5 intended to encompass unlawful actions such as the ones taken by the defendant in this case.

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Identity theft in California consists of stealing an individual’s personal identifying information and using it for an unlawful purpose such as obtaining a financial gain or making a tangible purchase. Examples of personal information that can be stolen include Social Security numbers, credit card numbers, bank account numbers, and using someone else’s good credit to purchase a vehicle or other property.

California Penal Code Section 530.5(a) is the unauthorized use of personal identifying information of another person. This crime involves any person who willfully obtains personal identifying information of another individual and uses that information for any unlawful purpose, including obtaining, or attempting to obtain credit, goods, services, real property, or medical information without the consent of that person.

Consequences of theft crimes include jail or state prison time, probation, hefty fines, and full victim restitution resulting from the personal damage to the victim.

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The office of the attorney general has published a page on its website dedicated to those who are victims, or suspect they may be victims, of identity theft. Identity theft is currently among the fastest growing crimes in America. It affected approximately 10 million victims in 2008 (a 22% increase from 2007). During these hard economic times, it is vital that each individual protect their financial resources. A large part of doing so is protecting their identity from being duplicated by unscrupulous individuals who might venture to defraud banks and financial institutions in their name.

The attorney general suggests that one of the first things you do if you are a victim of identity theft is to contact the fraud departments of each of the three major credit bureaus and report that your identity has been stolen. Ask that a “fraud alert” be placed in your file. Police reports should also be filed with local police or with the police where the theft occurred. Getting a copy of the police report and retaining it for your records is also very important.

Once the proper authorities have been identified, it is time to begin the process of contacting all of your creditors. Accounts that have been compromised and have fraudulent charges should be closed. Most creditors now have fraud and identity theft departments. Informing these departments of your situation and providing them with copies of your police reports is very important. Carefully monitor your mail and credit card bills and report immediately any new fraudulent activity to credit grantors.

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