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Identity Theft

Identity theft is a serious crime in Tennessee that impacts far more people than most realize. Given today’s technology, identify thieves generally commit crimes with more ease than in the past and can use someone’s personal identification to wreak financial havoc, securing loans, accessing bank accounts, renting property and even obtaining employment under someone else’s name. 

Definition of identity theft

Tennessee law defines identity theft as when a person knowingly obtains, possesses, buys or uses the personal identifying information of another without permission. This personal information must have been used with the intent to commit an illegal act, which can include obtaining credit cards, goods, services or medical information based on a false identity. 

Punishment for identify theft

Identity theft crimes in Tennessee carry a variety of punishments including substantial fines and even jail time. Identity theft is a Class D felony and carries a prison term of between two and 12 years. Identity theft trafficking is even more serious, a Class C felony, and comes with a prison sentence of between three and 15 years. Those convicted of engaging in identity theft also face seizure of any property gained from their crimes including money, cars and even homes. 

How to protect yourself

Given the prevalence of identity crimes it’s essential that people treat their personal information as the valuable asset that it is. Be careful who you reveal certain information to, being sure to never give out credit card numbers or Social Security numbers to companies or individuals you do not know. It’s also a good idea to shred any mail that contains sensitive information and be wary before giving out personal data online. 

If your wallet is ever stolen it’s critical that you notify your bank and credit card companies as soon as possible. This way the companies can freeze your accounts and prevent further harm from occurring. You can also file a report with the three major credit reporting agencies, known as a fraud alert, which can help companies be aware in the event of unusual activity on your credit history.