Question: What is identity theft?

Answer: Identity theft in Wisconsin usually goes under a more complicated name. It will show up either as “misappropriation of personal identifying information” or as “unauthorized use of an individual’s personal identifying information.” But most people casually call it “identity theft.” In any case, identity theft is a strange charge and it actually covers a lot more than most people think it covers.

Most people think of it like this: a guy has a false ID made up in someone else’s name or a guy goes and opens a credit card or an account using someone else’s name and that and that certainly does fall under identity theft. But identity theft doesn’t actually require that you’re pretending to be someone else. So if one person borrows another person’s credit card and goes to the store and uses it without permission, that can still be considered identity theft, even though you never go in there and actually say that you are that person. In addition, identity theft doesn’t require you to use documents or cards or something like that; it can simply be verbally using the information of another person—using their name, claiming to be another person. So if someone shows up with a delivery and says, “Is so-and-so here?” And you say, “Yeah, that’s me,” and then you take it, that would be identity theft.

Finally, identity theft can be charged against someone using someone else’s identifying information to stay out of trouble or to get someone else into trouble. So money or property don’t have to be involved; what has to happen is that you’re getting something out of it or that you’re tying to get someone else in trouble. If you’re convicted of identity theft, you could be facing up to a six-year sentence per count. And in these types of cases, the counts can often add up because every time you use someone else’s identification or documents, that can add another charge.

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