Identity Theft in New Jersey

The Data Breach Report for 2017 from the Identity Theft Resource Center shows there were more than 1,500 data breaches that potentially impacted 179 million records. This equates to roughly a 44% increase in the volume of breaches that occurred over the prior year. They also indicated that approximately 14.2 million credit card numbers were subjected to criminal exposure. The Federal Trade Commission says that among overall complaints from consumers, over 13% were specifically related to identity theft.

Most Common Types of Identity Theft

Relating to Credit Cards


Employment or Tax-Related


Phone or Utility-Based Fraud


Bank Fraud


Loan or Lease-Related Fraud


Recent Data for New Jersey

Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal and the New Jersey State Police are at the forefront in attempting to prevent and investigate these crimes. In 2017, there were over 950 breaches of potentially sensitive data that were reported. This equates to a 41% increase over 2016. The Office of the Attorney General investigated many cases where data privacy was compromised and these efforts led to nearly $4.8 million in civil damages. The Equifax breach was certainly the largest of its kind in 2017 and is believed to have placed 4 million citizens in New Jersey at risk.

State Comparison by Rate of Complaint


State Rank


Total Reported Complaints



151 per 100,000 in population




149 per 100,000 in population




140 per 100,000 in population




129 per 100,000 in population


New Jersey


106 per 100,000 in population


New Jersey Identity Theft Statute

Impersonation (2C:21-17) is the New Jersey statute that applies to acts of identity theft. The offense occurs when a person assumes a false identity in an effort to gain some benefit to the detriment of another person. The perpetrator may pretend to represent someone, a business, or other organization. Often the individual makes untruthful or deceptive statements when applying for services. It involves acquiring another person's personal information that is used to identify themselves without their permission.

The benefit that the offender seeks to gain may be anything of value, which may include property, services, etc. The level of offense that a defendant may be charged with is based on the value of the theft and also may be enhanced when there are multiple victims.

  • When the amount involved in the theft is under $500 and there is one victim, the charge will be a fourth-degree offense.
  • In the above circumstance, those with a prior conviction for a related offense will face third-degree charges.
  • When the amount involved in the theft is between $500 and $75,000, or if there are between two and five victims, the charge with be a third-degree offense.
  • When the amount involved in the theft is over $75,000, or there are more than five victims, the charge will be a second-degree offense.
  • When the offender uses someone else's identification to unlawfully purchase alcohol, tobacco, or some other product that they are not old enough to purchase the charge will be a disorderly person offense.
  • Courts may order that any records or government documents that have been falsified be corrected and that restitution be made to the victim(s).

How the Crime Occurs

The New Jersey State Police explains those seeking personal information may go “dumpster diving” into someone's garbage to locate bills and other documents containing personal data. The practice of “skimming” uses a small device that is capable of reading and storing the data contained within the magnetic strip found on a credit or debit card. In recent years, most card issuers have transitioned over to the “chip” technology that is not susceptible to skimming. Acts of “phishing” are those where the victim may receive an email from a bank or other institution that they have an existing relationship with. The victim is typically asked to provide a password or other sensitive personal data.

Another tactic involves changing the victim's mailing address so that they have access to potentially critical personal information. A perpetrator may steal the victim's wallet or purse, which obviously contains critical information such as a driver's license. The term “pretexting” refers to a scam where the victim receives a text message or phone call posing as an authentic bank or other institution and attempts to extract some valuable personal data.

Business Identity Theft

A business may also be the target of an identity thief. The crime may involve obtaining a credit card or other form of credit in the organization's name without their knowledge. Another scheme involves filing a tax return on behalf of the business in order to obtain a refund. “Trademark ransom” is a scam where the perpetrator somehow registers for the company trademark and essentially demands a ransom in exchange for releasing the claim.

Child Identity Theft

The Federal Trade Commission reports that nearly 4% of identity theft cases involve a child's identity. The thief may be able to use the child's identity for a long time period without being detected. This happens because a minor child or their parents would likely have no reason to check the credit report.

Use of Personal Information (2C: 21-17.2)

Another related crime in New Jersey involves attempting to obtain a legal document in another person's name. Examples would be a birth certificate or duplicate driver's license. These are charged as second-degree offenses. Despite being similar, this charge is deemed as a separate offense, meaning it cannot be merged with a charge of impersonation (2C:21-17).

Ranges of Penalties

Level of Offense

Penalty: Incarceration

Penalty: Fine

Second Degree

Between 5 and 10 years

Up to $150,000

Third Degree

Between 3 and 5 years

Up to $15,000

Fourth Degree

Up to 18 months

Up to $10,000

Disorderly Person Offense

Up to 6 months

Up to $1,000

Criminal Defense Lawyer for Allegations of Identity Theft

In recent years, crimes relating to identity theft have definitely gotten the attention of legislators, law enforcement, and criminal prosecutors. The rise in identity theft crimes has largely resulted from vulnerable networks being breached, leaving personal data and information exposed. Those who are facing such allegations may face harsh consequences such as a lengthy period of incarceration. Attorney Joseph D. Lento has spent years defending these cases in the New Jersey courts. Contact the office today at (888) 535-3686 for a consultation.

​​​Contact The Lento Law Firm Today

When it comes to criminal defense cases, you need the right person in your corner. To learn more about how Mr. Lento can help you, call the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686. or contact him online.

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