The fraudulent use of identifying information is a criminal offense in Texas that involves the use of someone else’s personal information without their consent with the intent to harm, defraud, or threaten another person.
Texas Penal Code defines this offense under Section 32.51, which states:
“A person commits an offense if the person, with intent to harm or defraud another, obtains, possesses, transfers, or uses an item of: (1) identifying information of another person without the other person’s consent; (2) information concerning a deceased natural person, including a stillborn infant or fetus, that would be identifying information of that person were the person alive, if the item of information is obtained, possessed, transferred, or used without legal authorization; or (3) identifying information of a child younger than 18 years of age.”
Identifying information includes any personal information that can be used to identify an individual, such as their name, Social Security number, date of birth, and financial account information.
Examples of fraudulent use of identifying information include using someone else’s credit card or bank account information to make unauthorized purchases, opening a credit account in someone else’s name, or using someone else’s personal information to obtain government benefits.
The severity of the offense depends on the number of items of identifying information that were obtained, possessed, transferred, or used.
Less than 5 pieces of identifying information: A State jail felony, punishable by 6 months to 2 years in a State Jail Facility, and a fine not to exceed $10,000.
5 or More pieces of identifying information, but less than 10: 3rd degree felony, which can result in imprisonment from 2 up to 10 years, and a fine of up to $10,000.
10 or More pieces of identifying information, but less than 50: 2nd degree felony, which can result in imprisonment for 2 to 20 years, and a fine of up to $10,000.
50 or More pieces of identifying information: 1st Degree Felony, punishable by 5 to 99 years or life in prison, and a fine of up to $10,000.
An offense described for purposes of punishment by Subsections (c)(1)-(3) is increased to the next higher category of offense if it is shown on the trial of the offense that the offense was committed against an elderly individual.
It is important to note that even if the fraudulent use of identifying information did not result in financial harm, it is still considered a serious offense under Texas law.