Blog_Hero1.jpg

THE STANGL LAW BLOG

Identity Theft in Wisconsin: 2 Laws to Understand

Posted by Attorney Stangl on April 6, 2016

Identity Theft in Wisconsin

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has listed identity theft as its top consumer complaint for 15 years in a row.

In its most recent report of this kind, the agency pointed to a sharp increase in imposter scams—a form of identity theft through the impersonation of a government agency or other businesses or organization.

Identity Theft is a Felony in Wisconsin

In the state of Wisconsin, using someone else’s identity without permission—whether belonging to an individual or business—is considered a felony.

Penalties for identity theft in Wisconsin can include serving time in jail, paying fines, being charged restitution and serving probation. 

The exact punishment for any crime depends on the specifics of each case, but consulting an experienced attorney can give you a better idea of what type of sentence you might be facing if you have been charged with identity theft in the state of Wisconsin.

Identity Theft As a White Collar Crime

The alleged theft of another’s identity—whether belonging to a person or company—falls under an area of specialty referred to as white collar crime.

These types of offenses are typically non-violent in nature and often involve misappropriation of funds, such as wire fraud, money laundering and embezzlement.

If you have been charged with a white collar crime, such as fraud of identity theft, it is very important that you get in touch with an attorney who is both knowledgeable and experienced in defending these types of cases.

Understanding Identity Theft in Wisconsin

Since both individuals and businesses (or other entities) can be at risk of having their identities stolen, the state of Wisconsin recognizes two types of criminal identity theft offenses.

  1. Unauthorized use of an individual’s personal identifying information and documents
  2. Unauthorized use of an entity’s identifying information or documents 

As such, there are two different Wisconsin laws on the books which detail exactly how the state determines an act of identity theft has occurred, each definition respective of the victim.

Let’s take a closer look at both of these laws.

Identity Theft Against an Individual

The first law pertaining to identity theft in Wisconsin outlines this offense when perpetrated against an individual.

You can read Wisconsin State Statute 943.201 for the exact definition of this offense. The key to understanding this act of theft, begins with understanding the state of Wisconsin’s definition of the terms, “unauthorized use” and “personal identifying information or documents.”

How is “Unauthorized Use” Defined in Wisconsin?

In order to be considered at risk of having committed identity theft against another person in Wisconsin, you must have—without authorization—intentionally used, attempted to use, or possessed with the intention of using the personal identifying information or documents belonging to that individual, living or deceased.

Understanding which types of information and documents are included in the state’s definition of this criminal offense is the next step in learning to recognize identity theft in Wisconsin.

Information and Personal Identity Theft in Wisconsin

In order for the courts to convict someone of identity theft against another person, the prosecution will need to present qualifying evidence of this offense as outlined in section (1)(a) of Wisconsin State Statute 943.201, which defines an individual’s “personally identifiable information and documents” as any of the following:

  • A document listing a person’s identifying information—such as a passport.
  • A person’s card or plate which could be used alone or with another device to pay for goods or services, transfer funds or obtain cash or any other thing of value—an example would be a debit card.
  • Any other item or device that is specific to an individual and can be used to access goods, services or anything of value—such as the key to a lock box.

Which Specific Personal Identifying Information is Recognized Under Wisconsin Law?

It’s important to know exactly what types of information the state of Wisconsin considers key to defining identity theft.

If someone intentionally used, attempted to use, or intended to use any of the following pieces of unique information belonging to another individual as his or her own in order to gain products, services or other benefit, the act would qualify as identity theft under Wisconsin State Statute 943.201 (1) (b):

  • Name
  • Address
  • Telephone number
  • Driver’s license number
  • Social security number
  • Employer or place of employment
  • Employee identification number
  • Maiden name
  • Bank or other depository account number
  • Taxpayer ID number
  • Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) profile
  • Any of the following uniquely belonging to an individual and associated with an access device (such as an ATM):
    • Account number or code
    • Electronic serial number, mobile number, personal ID number or other telecommunications ID service, equipment or instrument
    • Any other way of accessing an account
  • Biometric data, such as fingerprints, voice, retina or iris scan, or other unique physical representation
  • Any information belonging to an individual with the capability to access goods, services, money or anything of value or benefit entitled to the individual
  • Any information which can be uniquely associated with a specific individual

--

If you are proven to have used, attempted to use or possessed with the intention to use without authorization any of the above listed items for any of the following reasons, you would be considered guilty of identity theft against an individual in Wisconsin:

  • To gain funds, goods, services, credit, work or anything of benefit or value
  • In an attempt to get out of civil or criminal proceedings or penalties
  • Delivering harm to person, including his or her body, property, reputation or estate

If you are facing charges of unauthorized use of an individual’s personal identifying information or documents and have not contacted an attorney who specializes in white collar criminal defense, you should do so immediately.

Identity Theft Against an Entity

Just as an individual’s personal information or documentation can be used without consent or knowledge, the same can happen to a business or other organization consisting of more than one individual, such as the government. Wisconsin takes a strict position against such an offense. 

The second law addressing identity theft in Wisconsin, then, is in place to protect organizations and other such groups. You can read Wisconsin State Statute 943.203 for the exact language of the law against using the identity of a business or other entity without authorization, but the basic thinking behind it is similar to the law against individual identity theft.

Again, it comes down to unauthorized use—executed, attempted or planned—of the entity’s identifiable information or documents.

How is Unauthorized Use Defined Against a Business or Entity in Wisconsin?

Wisconsin law recognizes “unauthorized use” in determining whether or not an entity’s identity has been stolen in much the same way it recognizes this same offense against individuals. 

In order to be considered at risk of having committed identity theft against an entity in Wisconsin, you must have—without authorization—intentionally used, attempted to use, or possessed with the intention of using the identifying information or documents belonging to that entity.

As was the case in learning to identity theft of an individual’s personal information, recognizing the types of information and documents included in the state’s definition of identity theft against an entity is core to understanding this white collar offense.

What Kind of Information Relates to Entity Identity Theft in Wisconsin?

When the alleged victim of stolen identity is a business, corporation, organization or other entity, the definition of the law as presented in Wisconsin State Statute 943.203(1)(b) presents a similar description as it did in addressing the theft of an individual’s identity. Again, it is important to understand how the state of Wisconsin defines the types of identifying documents and information belonging to the entity:

  • A document listing the entity’s identifying information—such as a commercial loan application.
  • A card or plate belonging to the entity which could be used alone or with another device to pay for goods or services, transfer funds or obtain cash or any other thing of value—such as a corporate credit card.
  • Any other item or device that is specific to the entity which can be used to obtain goods, services or anything of value—such as a Federal Tax ID number.

Which Specific Identifying Information Does Wisconsin Law Use to Determine Entity Identity Theft?

Under Wisconsin State Statute 943.203(1)(c), the types of information and documents the state of Wisconsin attaches to acts of identity theft against an entity include the following which uniquely identify and belong to the entity:

  • Name
  • Address
  • Telephone number
  • Employer ID number
  • Bank and other depository account numbers
  • Any of the following uniquely belonging to an entity that can be used alone or with any access device (as with online bank accounts) used to obtain anything of value or transfer funds:
    • Account number or code
    • Electronic serial number, mobile number, personal ID number or other telecommunications ID service, equipment or instrument
    • Any other way of accessing an account
  • Any other unique data or information belonging to the entity designed to be used to access funds, services, goods or anything else of value or benefit including credit entitled to the entity
  • Any other information that belongs to the entity

If you have been charged with unauthorized use of an entity’s identifying information or documents or suspect you are being investigated for identity theft in Wisconsin, you should contact a knowledgeable attorney right away. 

Possible Defenses to Identity Theft Charges in Wisconsin

If you were authorized by law to take the actions you did in using another’s identity, but were later charged with identity theft, you would have some recourse in court. However, you would also have the burden of proving this defense.

Again, if you are facing identity theft charges it would be in your best interest to contact a diligent criminal defense attorney to assist you with your defense.

Penalties for Identity Theft in Wisconsin

The state of Wisconsin considers both identity theft against an individual and identity theft against an entity Class H felony offenses. As a result, these two types of theft carry the same punishments.

If you are found guilty of identity theft in Wisconsin, you face severe consequences. Penalties for Class H felonies in this state can include a fine up to $10,000 and up to 6 years in jail—or both, depending on the specifics of your case and the effectiveness of your defense.

First Step to Take if You Are Facing Identity Theft Charges in Wisconsin

The state of Wisconsin takes a hard stance against identity theft. If you believe you are being investigated for identity theft against another person, a business or other organization--or if you have already been charged with this felony offense, you should contact a proven criminal defense attorney immediately.

Free Legal Consultation

Madison-based criminal defense attorney, Patrick J. Stangl, has over 20 years’ experience helping individuals like you get out of legal tangles.

Get a FREE Consultation

Topics: Other Criminal Charges, Fraud Charges

RECENT POSTS

FEATURED VIDEOS

Am I Being Investigated for a White Collar Crime?
 
When to Consider Filing an Appeal in Wisconsin
 

SUBSCRIBE TO OUR NEWSLETTER

IF YOU NEED LEGAL DEFENSE AGAINST CRIMINAL CHARGES IN WISCONSIN,  DISCUSS YOUR OPTIONS WITH STANGL LAW.
Get a Free Consultation