When is Identity Theft not Identity Theft? Supreme Court to Decide

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When someone fills out an application for work, a loan, cell phone, housing or medical services, it's mandatory to supply a Social Security Number. But what happens if the numbers provided are randomly picked digits by an undocumented worker and though they had no idea they belonged to you, they did?

If you discovered your Social Security Number (or your child's) was being used by someone else, would you assume that would be an identity theft?  Would it surprise you to learn that it might not be?

Depending on where you live, if someone dreams up random Social Security Numbers and then uses them as their own identification, it might not be a crime. Why? Because when they picked those numbers out of their head, they didn't have knowledge that the numbers they picked belonged to anyone in particular.

Whether or not using random numbers belonging to someone else is deemed a theft of identity, will now be determined by the Supreme Court.  At the heart of the matter, and central question, is whether or not the person knew that the bogus Social Security Number supplied, belonged to someone else.

When is Identity Theft not Identity Theft ?  Case Moves to Supreme Court  
By Guest Blogger; Jim Malmberg

When someone uses your Social Security Number to get a job, take out credit, or for some other purpose, the chances are that you will think of yourself as an identity theft victim. And you know that there are a variety of state and federal laws that should help protect you so you will assume that if you report the crime to the authorities that the perpetrators will be prosecuted if they get caught and jailed if they are convicted.  

What you might not suspect is that depending upon where you live in the United States, if your ID is used by an illegal alien, no crime may have been committed. Within the next few months the Supreme Court will weigh in on this issue.

Its fairly common knowledge that illegal aliens often use fake documents. In some cases, these documents use made up names and Social Security Numbers. Even so, if you make up enough SSNs, the chances are good that a few of them will actually belong to real people. In other cases, the documents used by illegals are made using stolen information.

It is because of these differences in the way forged documents are made, and a quirk in the law, that different federal courts have had completely different opinions on this matter. Three separate courts have found that when an illegal alien uses forged documents that they can be convicted of Aggravated Identity Theft; a felony. Three other courts have found that this is not an option because illegal aliens using forged documents have no way of knowing if the names and Social Security Numbers contained in those documents are real.
The law does not provide an easy answer. It says that a person can be convicted of aggravated identity theft if they "knowingly" transfer, possess or use someone else's identity without lawful authority. And the case hinges on one word. "Knowingly".
The case has become important to the federal government because federal prosecutors have been using the charge of aggravated identity theft to force illegal aliens to plead out their cases, serve a minimal sentence and leave the country rather than face being sentenced to time in a federal penitentiary. A charge of aggravated identity theft can add two years to their sentence. The tactic has been used extensively by prosecutors in many of the large immigration raids made over the past two years. The most notable of these have been raids on meat packing facilities.
The court expects to rule on the case by next June.

For more about the case see: Supreme Court Takes on Identity Theft Case

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