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What is Considered Identity Fraud/Identity Theft Under Maryland Law?

Maryland state law addresses identity fraud and theft, and punishes obtaining or using personal details about another, or assuming their identity, with the fraudulent intent to use that information or identity to secure a benefit.

The numbers concerning identity fraud and identity theft are truly staggering. In 2019, 3.2 million cases of fraud and identity theft were reported to states, local and federal authorities.1 But the complaints to law enforcement are dwarfed by the number of actual victims of fraud and theft. The Insurance Information Institute2 ominously tells us              "[a]ccording to the 2019 Identity Fraud Study  from Javelin Strategy & Research 3 the number of consumers who were victims of identity fraud fell to 14.4 million in 2018, down from a record high of 16.7 million in 2017." 

It is illegal to obtain personal identifying information of another without their consent.

To sustain a conviction, a Maryland prosecutor must prove the defendant acted knowingly, and possessed a fraudulent intent to have or get any personal identifying information of another individual, without their consent, with the secondary purpose of  using, selling, or transferring  "the information to get a benefit, credit, good, service, or other thing of value or to access health information or health care." A violation can be punished as a misdemeanor carrying 1 year in prison and a fine, up to a felony carrying 20 years in prison, depending on the value of the of the goods or services obtained. Under this law, "personal identifying information" includes the obvious things, such as:

  • driver's license number
  • Social Security number 
  • employee identification number
  • health insurance identification number 
  • medical identification number 
  • bank or other financial institution account number
  • personal identification number
  • unique biometric data, including fingerprint, voice print, retina or iris image or other unique physical representation
  • digital signature
  • credit card number, or other payment device number

However, the law also defines personal identifying information in sweeping fashion that includes information such as:

  • place of employment 
  • mother's maiden name  
  • date of birth
  • digital signature

This law also defines personal information to include other seemingly public information such as:

  • a name
  • address
  • telephone number

This statute also contains a catchall,  providing that: "[p]ersonal identifying information" may be derived from any element ...[above]  alone or in conjunction with any other information to identify a specific natural or fictitious individual."

It is illegal to assume the identity of another

Here, a Maryland State's Attorney must prove the defendant acted intentionally, and assumed a false identity with the purpose of avoiding prosecution, apprehension or debts and obligations imposed by law.
This statue also punishes assuming a false identity with the intent to obtain anything of value or health information or services.  A violation can be punished as a misdemeanor carrying 1 year in prison and a fine,  up to a felony carrying 20 years in prison, depending on the value of the of the goods or services obtained. 

It it illegal to employ interactive computer service to disclose another's specified personal identifying information

In order to secure a conviction the State must show the defendant acted with malice, and malice and with the purpose of annoying, threatening or embarrassing the victim, used "an interactive computer service to disclose": 

  • a driver's license number
  • bank or other financial institution account number 
  • card number, payment device number
  • Social Security number  
  • employee identification number 

A violation is a misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in prison and a fine.

​​      -Source: § 8-301​ of the Criminal Law Article
​All states have likely enacted similar or substantially similar provisions. Moreover, under federal law "knowingly transfer[ring] or us[ing], without lawful authority, a means of identification of another person with the intent to commit, or to aid or abet, any unlawful activity that constitutes a violation of Federal law, or that constitutes a felony under any applicable State or local law." 18 U.S.C. § 1028(a)(7). This offense, in most circumstances, carries a maximum term of 15 years' imprisonment, a fine, and criminal forfeiture of any personal property used or intended to be used to commit the offense.​​" 


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