Theft is prevalent across the country, including in Pennsylvania. Theft and property crimes comprise different types of offenses, one of which is identity theft, which occurs when an individual uses another person’s identifying information — without that person’s consent — for purposes that are unlawful. Personal information is more accessible than ever with the increased use of technology.

A 35-year-old man was recently sentenced to 34 months in prison for cashing counterfeit checks that were produced by stealing the identities of others. The man pleaded guilty to aggravated identity theft and conspiracy in Sept. He reportedly apologized for his actions, which he blamed on his gambling addiction.

It was reported that the man worked with his wife — who will be sentenced later — to obtain the personal information in a scheme called shoulder surfing. The couple would stand in line behind customers who were cashing their paychecks at Wal-Mart stores across 20 states. The couple then recorded the individuals’ personal details, such as their Social Security numbers, and used that information to create the counterfeit checks that they then cashed at different Wal-Mart stores.

Prosecutors estimated the value of the counterfeit checks at $700,000, using the identities of 900 people, but the man was apparently only able to successfully cash checks to the value of $300,000. Theft and property crimes charges need to be taken seriously, and Pennsylvania residents who are facing such charges have the right to retain legal counsel to protect their rights and advocate on their behalves in court. An experienced identity theft defense attorney will work diligently to defend the client’s good record if an acceptable plea deal is not offered.

Source: wtae.com, “‘Shoulder surfing’ husband gets prison in Walmart check scam targeting hundreds“, Joe Mandak, Feb. 4, 2016