What counts as identity theft?

For better or worse, nobody can escape a fully digital world. If you’ve used the internet for anything, chances are that there’s already some data on you. Many people would share even their most private moments on social media for the world to see.

Thankfully, some sensitive personal information remains confidential because of its potential misuse. These include things like account numbers and payment card details.

However, that hasn’t stopped some persons from illegally obtaining the private information of others to make transactions fraudulently or to gain some benefit through underhanded means.

If you’ve come across any identifying information of another person and used it to accomplish dishonest business, you can face charges for identity theft. Identity theft is a felony in North Carolina, and a conviction leads to fines and prison time.

But what exactly counts as identity theft under the law?

Illegally possessing identifying information

According to state rules, possessing another person’s identifying information without their consent is already a crime. This means that you can face charges even if you’ve never stolen the data yourself or used the information to fraudulently take out a loan, for instance.

Fraudulently obtaining, possessing or using the following identifying information is a crime by law:

  • Credit and debit card numbers
  • Checking and savings account numbers
  • Driver’s license, state identification card or passport numbers
  • Electronic identification numbers and passwords for electronic accounts such as email
  • Biometric data, fingerprints
  • Social Security Numbers, taxpayer ID numbers

The law also prohibits the illegal obtaining, possessing and abusing of any other information to access another person’s financial resources, such as the answers to security questions, alternative passwords, etc.


A violation of North Carolina’s identity theft law is a Class G felony, which carries a prison sentence of up to four years.

However, a violation becomes punishable as a Class F felony if the offense leads to officials wrongly arresting, detaining or convicting a victim due to the fraudulent actions of the accused. You can also face a Class F felony charge if officials find you’ve possessed the identifying information of three or more persons. On conviction, a Class F felony leads to up to five years in prison.

Identity theft isn’t limited to the act of theft itself – just possessing stolen information is a crime. If you’re facing charges, know that a felony conviction will lead to years in prison.

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