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Identity Fraud

Identity fraud occurs when someone assumes another person’s identity in order to achieve a gain, usually financial gain. There are several types of identity fraud, including identity theft and government document fraud, among others.

Identity theft is a fairly recent legal development, not made expressly illegal until Congress passed the Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act in 1998. An estimated 9 million Americans are victims of identity theft each year. Identity thieves may steal another’s personal identifying information (PII) to commit fraud for their own financial or other gain. Personal identifying information may include any of the following:

  • Name

  • Address

  • Telephone number

  • Driver’s license number

  • Social Security number

  • Place of employment

  • Employee identification number

  • Mother’s maiden name

  • Bank or other financial institution account number

  • Date of birth

  • Personal identification number (PIN)

  • Credit card number

  • Any other payment device number.

Personal information may be acquired in a variety of ways, including rummaging through trash, sending fraudulent emails that “phish” for personal information, or stealing credit card numbers when processing a sale or transaction. There are several different ways that identity thieves fraudulently use information for financial or other gain. The following table lists the penalties for identity fraud under Maryland law:


Value of Property

Type of Charge

Maximum Fine

Maximum Prison Sentence

Possess or obtain PII

$500 or more



5 years

Less than $500



18 months

Possess or obtain PII with intent to distribute




5 years

Possess or obtain PII to avoid prosecution




18 months


In addition to these penalties, you may be required to pay restitution and attorneys’ fees to the victim of identity theft.

In Maryland, it is also a crime to possess, use, manufacture, sell, or distribute a fictitious or fraudulently altered government identification document. A person who makes or alters a government identification document with the intent to sell or distribute that document may be charged with a misdemeanor punishable by a $2,000 fine, 2 years in prison, or both. Possessing or using a fictitious or fraudulently-altered ID or possessing or using another person’s ID is a misdemeanor that is punishable by a $500 fine, 6 months in prison, or both.