As the definition of the crime suggests, identity theft is perpetrated to facilitate other unlawful activities, such as credit card fraud, check fraud, or mortgage fraud. An identity thief may steal someone’s identity to evade law enforcement or avoid arrest or prosecution. A crime may also involve the act of obtaining someone’s identity through mail theft or computer theft.
The following crimes are frequently associated with identity theft. Prosecutors may bring several charges for the same act or series of acts, but a conviction on more than one offense must be based on different acts. (This section provides summary information on selected statutes. Readers should consult the most recent version of the criminal code for complete and updated information.)
Giving a peace officer a false name. It is a gross misdemeanor to obstruct justice by giving a peace officer the name and date of birth of another person in response to an inquiry incident to a lawful investigatory stop or arrest. The same penalty applies to persons who give the name and date of birth of another person to a court official in a criminal proceeding. Minn. Stat. § 609.506.
False information to financial institution. A person who informs a financial institution that a person’s blank checks or debit cards have been lost or stolen, knowing or having reason to know that the information is false, is guilty of a misdemeanor. Minn. Stat. § 609.508.
Theft. It is a crime to intentionally and without claim of right take, use, transfer, conceal, or retain possession of property of another without the other’s consent. Penalties for theft range from a misdemeanor to a 20-year felony. Minn. Stat. § 609.52.
Stolen or counterfeit checks. A person who sells, possesses, receives, or transfers a check that the person knows or has reason to know is stolen or counterfeit is guilty of a crime. Penalties for this crime range from a misdemeanor to a ten-year felony depending the amount of loss or number of direct victims involved. (A direct victim is any person or entity from whom a check is stolen or whose name or other identifying information is contained in a counterfeit check.) Minn. Stat. § 609.528.
Mail theft. The crime of mail theft is punishable by a three-year felony subject to a $5,000 fine. Mail theft includes, but is not limited to, doing any of the following acts intentionally and without claim of right: removing mail from a mail depository, making a false representation to wrongly obtain custody of mail, or removing the contents of mail addressed to another. Minn. Stat. § 609.529.
Issuance of dishonored checks. It is a crime to issue a check intending that it should not be paid. Proof of intent includes evidence that the issuer did not have an account with the financial institution. Penalties for issuing a dishonored check vary depending on the value of the dishonored check. Checks may be aggregated within any six-month period. Minn. Stat. § 609.535.
Forgery. Whoever, with intent to injure or defraud, uses a false writing for identification or falsifies any record, account, or other document relating to a person or business is guilty of forgery. A person who violates this section may be sentenced to three years’ imprisonment and/or to payment of a $5,000 fine. Minn. Stat. § 609.63.
Check forgery/Offering a forged check. Whoever, with the intent to defraud, falsely makes or alters a check so that it purports to be made by another or falsely endorses a check is guilty of check forgery. Whoever, with the intent to defraud, offers or possesses with intent to offer a forged check is guilty of offering a forged check, regardless of whether the forged check is accepted.
The penalties for check forgery and offering a forged check range from a gross misdemeanor to a 20-year felony depending on the aggregate amount involved within a six-month period. Minn. Stat. § 609.631.
Fraudulent driver’s licenses and identification cards. It is a crime to control, possess, or use equipment or software designed to generate fraudulent drivers’ licenses and identification cards for consideration and with the intent to manufacture, sell, issue, publish, or pass more than one fraudulent license or card. It is also a crime to manufacture or possess more than one fraudulent driver’s license or identification card with intent to sell.
A first-time offense under this section is a gross misdemeanor. A subsequent offense is a five year felony offense subject to a $10,000 fine. Minn. Stat. § 609.652.
Fraud in obtaining credit. It is a crime to obtain credit from a bank, trust company, savings association, or credit union, by means of a present or past false representation as to the person or another’s financial ability. If no money or property is obtained, the maximum penalty is 90 days’ imprisonment and/or a $300 fine. If money or property is obtained, a person may be sentenced as provided in section 609.52, subdivision 3 (theft). Minn. Stat. § 609.82.
Financial transaction card fraud. The crime of financial transaction card fraud includes using a card without the consent of the cardholder to obtain property of another; knowingly using a forged card; providing false information to obtain a card; and falsely reporting that a card is lost or stolen with the intent to defraud the issuer. Other actions are also prohibited under this section.
The term “financial transaction card” includes, but is not limited to, credit cards, banking cards, debit cards, and electronic benefit system cards used to obtain credit, money, services, public assistance benefits, or anything else of value. A “cardholder” refers to the person in whose name a card is issued, and an “issuer” means a person, firm, or government agency that issues a financial transaction card.
The range of penalties for the offense is determined primarily by the type of fraud and amount of loss involved (certain losses may be aggregated over a six-month period). The minimum penalty is a gross misdemeanor and the maximum penalty is a 20-year felony. Enhanced sentences may apply if the person was convicted within the preceding five years of a gross misdemeanor or felony for robbery, theft, burglary, or forgery. Certain actions are criminalized even if no property is obtained. Minn. Stat. § 609.821.
Computer theft. Whoever, intentionally and without authorization or claim of right, accesses a computer, computer system, or computer network for the purpose of obtaining services or property is guilty of computer theft. Additionally, whoever intentionally and without authorization or claim of right, and with intent to deprive the owner of use or possession, takes, transfers, conceals, or retains possession of any computer, computer system, or any computer software or data is guilty of computer theft.
Misdemeanor and felony penalties apply to the crime of computer theft. The maximum penalty is a ten-year felony and applies if the loss involved is more than $2,500. Minn. Stat. § 609.89.
Unauthorized computer access. A person is guilty of unauthorized computer access if the person intentionally and without authorization attempts to or does penetrate a computer security system. A “computer security system” is a program or device that intends to protect the confidentiality of computer data.
The penalties for unauthorized computer access range from a misdemeanor to a ten-year felony. Gross misdemeanor and felony penalties apply to repeat offenses and offenses that compromise personal data, data security, public health and safety, or personal safety. Minn. Stat. § 609.891.
Criminal use of encryption. It is a crime to intentionally use or attempt to use encryption to: (1) commit, further, or facilitate conduct constituting a crime; (2) conceal the commission of a crime; (3) conceal or protect the identity of another who has committed a crime; or (4) prevent, impede, delay, or disrupt the normal operation of a computer. The maximum penalty for criminal use of encryption is a five-year felony. Minn. Stat. § 609.8912.
Facilitating access to a computer security system. A person is guilty of a gross misdemeanor if the person knows or has reason to know that by facilitating access to a computer security system, the person is aiding another who intends to commit a crime and, in fact, commits a crime. “Facilitating access” includes intentionally disclosing a password, identity code, or other confidential information about the computer security system. Minn. Stat. § 609.8913.
Telecommunications and information services fraud. It is a crime to obtain telecommunication services for one’s own use by any fraudulent means with the intent to evade a lawful charge. “Telecommunications service” means a service (in exchange for a pecuniary consideration) that provides or offers to provide transmission of messages, signals, faxes, or other communication via telephone, telegraph, cable, wire, fiber-optic cable, or the projection of energy. The amounts involved relating to one scheme or course of conduct may be aggregated. Minn. Stat. § 609.893.
Other Related Crimes
|Crime||Minnesota Statute||Maximum penalty||Offense level|
|Bringing stolen property into state||§ 609.525||20 years/$100,000||Felony|
|Receiving stolen property||§ 609.53||20 years/$100,000||Felony|
|Misusing a credit card to secure
|§ 609.545||90 days/$1,000||Misdemeanor|
|Burglary||§ 609.582||20 years/$35,000||Felony|
|Insurance fraud||§ 609.611||20 years/$100,000||Felony|
|Aggravated forgery||§ 609.625||10 years/$20,000||Felony|
|Filing a forged instrument||§ 609.64||3 years/$5,000||Felony|
|False certification by (purported)
|§ 609.65||3 years/$5,000||Felony|
|Fraudulent or otherwise improper
|§ 609.7475||5 years/$10,000||Felony|
|Computer damage||§ 609.88||10 years/$50,000||Felony|
|Cellular telephone counterfeiting||§ 609.894||5 years/$10,000||Felony|
|Interception and disclosure of wire
or oral communications
|§ 626A.02||5 years/$20,000||Felony|
Additional Penalties and Sanctions
A perpetrator of identity theft or a related crime may be subject to additional sanctions under the law, including forfeiture and racketeering penalties.
Forfeiture. Minnesota’s forfeiture law lists a felony violation of, or a felony-level attempt to violate, section 609.527 (identity theft) as a “designated offense.” Other “designated offenses” include felony violations or felony-level attempt violations of sections 609.52 (theft); 609.525 (bringing stolen goods into the state); 609.528 (possession or sale of a stolen or counterfeit check); 609.631 (check forgery); and 609.89 (computer theft).
All personal property is subject to forfeiture if it was used or intended for use to commit or facilitate the commission of a designated offense. All money and other property, real or personal, which represent proceeds of a designated offense, are subject to forfeiture. The property may be seized immediately without process if certain provisions are met. All right, title, and interest in the property vests in the appropriate agency upon commission of the act giving rise to forfeiture. Minn. Stat. § 609.531.
Racketeering. The crime of racketeering targets individuals participating in a pattern of criminal activity (three or more acts). Criminal activity includes a felony violation of identity theft, as well as other related identity theft crimes. Racketeering is punishable by a sentence of imprisonment of 20 years and/or payment of a $1,000,000 fine. Minn. Stat. §§ 609.902 et seq.
This and any related posts have been adopted from the Minnesota House of Representatives Research Department’s Information Brief, Identity Theft and Related Crimes, written by legislative analyst Rebecca Pirius.