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Prosecutors increasingly targeting identity theft

It has become more and more common for Saint Louis residents to place their personal information online or in the hands of third party businesses or other entities. Given the amount of personal information that is increasingly divulged, it comes as no surprise that one of the fastest growing crimes in the country is identity theft. Indeed, it is estimated that about nine million Americans have their personal information stolen every year.

Federal and state officials have also increasingly turned their focus toward prosecuting identity theft cases. Along with the increased prosecution, there are strict penalties in place for those accused of identity theft.

The allegations can take many different forms. For example, more traditional accusations of identity theft can involve rummaging through garbage or stealing someone's mail and then using that personal information for financial gain. More modern allegations might involve stealing credit card numbers through an ATM or other transactions, or phishing for information through email or other means of communication. Individuals might also be alleged to have used more sophisticated means, such as diverting others to a different website than one was expecting, and then using the information entered on the website.

In any form alleged, the accusations of identity theft should be taken seriously. Depending on the sophistication of the alleged scheme, individuals can develop different defenses that challenge the government's alleged evidence against the person. At the very least, individuals can hold the government to its stringent burden of proof, or explore the possibility of entering into a plea agreement that will avoid the strictest penalties.

The particular strategy used will differ from case to case, depending on the charges and the evidence involved, among other factors. Accordingly, individuals should consult with an attorney to determine how to best combat the identity theft charges brought against them individually.

Source: Missouri Attorney General, "Identity theft," accessed on Sept. 19, 2014

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