Last year in December we wrote about how credit card fraud and identity theft cases tend to increase around the holidays, and that we often see more of these cases in Vista courts. As we head into the final months of 2017, the story will likely be the same.
But right now there’s a whole other story.
Some 143 million Americans – out of the total U.S. population of roughly 323 million – now face the possible theft of extremely sensitive data, including names, birth dates, Social Security numbers, and credit card numbers.
In short, close to half of all Americans were affected by the Equifax breach, and lawmakers like Sen. Chuck Schumer have called for Equifax to make good on fixing the problem, recommending the complete ouster of Equifax leadership if the credit reporting agency fails to do so.
Hackers’ end goal (besides the possible Fight Club-esque disruption of American consumer culture as a motivation), is to use this privacy breach to perpetrate crimes of credit card fraud and ID theft.
As we wrote in Dec. 2016, these crimes come with serious consequences upon conviction. Unauthorized use of a credit card and related identify theft allegations – a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the situation – imposes punishment ranging from up to one year in jail for misdemeanors (and $1,000 in fines) to a possible three years in prison for felonies (and $10,000 in fines). This is on top of restitution. (Any given result depends on the unique facts of the case.)
It’s too early to say, but a reasonable prediction might be that we see an uptick in the filing of these types of charges in the months and years following this breach.