Phillip A. Linder
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Understanding identity fraud and identity theft

Texas readers may be concerned about being accused of identity theft or identity fraud. It is a good idea to understand what constitutes identity fraud and identity theft. Both terms are used to describe crimes in which an individual obtains someone else's personal information and then uses it for economic or personal gain.

Data such as an individual's credit card number, bank account number or social security number can be used to obtain loans, take funds from an account or make purchases in the person's name. Many individuals have reported that funds have been taken out of their financial accounts. In addition to the initial financial losses, individuals often must spend additional funds to restore their reputations and repair their credit ratings.

An individual who is convicted of identity fraud or identity theft may be required to pay restitution, serve time in prison and on probation. In addition, it may be difficult for a person with a criminal record to find employment. Many employers will not hire individuals who have been convicted of a criminal act.

It can be difficult, however, for a prosecutor to build a convincing case for fraud. This is because it is important to prove that an individual intended to commit fraud. In other words, an individual may do something out of ignorance or by mistake that might be construed as fraud. A criminal defense attorney may be able to argue that a defendant's actions were not intentionally fraudulent, but were the result of a mistake or misunderstanding. If the prosecution is concerned that the evidence is not strong enough to convince a jury to convict, he or she may offer an attractive plea bargain.

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