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New Jersey "Identity Theft" Case Wasn't Really Identity Theft

Identity theft comes in many forms. It can involve lost or stolen credit cards, or misappropriation of data in a business setting. With so many companies mining personal data for various sales purposes, the boundaries of what is permissible are still evolving - especially in a world saturated with social media.

As lawyers who defend New Jersey identity theft charges, we are well aware of how a broad a term "identity theft" can be.

We also know that there is such a thing as mistaken identity theft. A recent case in point concern a man who sought to purchase a house in New Jersey, only to be informed by his bank that his identity had been stolen.

PC magazine recently reported on the case. The man, by the name of James, was about to sign the mortgage papers for a townhouse in Morristown. He and his wife had been working in New York and renting an apartment in Connecticut.

After finding a house they loved in New Jersey, they were all ready to sign off on the loan when their bank, Bank of America, told James that someone had stolen his identity.

The bank was wrong. James had merely made several large, out-of-the-ordinary purchases, in preparation for his move. Fearing that James's account information had been stolen, the bank temporarily shut down the account.

This had the effect of causing the credit agencies to give James a much lower credit score. This, in turn, resulted in a much higher rate of interest on his mortgage.

The moral of the story? No one would deny that the problem of identity theft is real. But in individual cases, banks - and sometimes prosecutors - can overreact.

Source: "The Hidden Cost of Mistaken Identity Theft," PCMag, 12-12-11

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