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Three Common Holiday Theft Crimes


The holidays are almost upon us, and while for many people that means a time of joy, celebration, and festivity, it also means a time of opportunity for would-be thieves. Many people may not realize it, but the holidays are actually a time where theft crimes increase dramatically. With so much activity, there is a lot of opportunity for thieves to strike, and that means certain types of theft in particular see a huge spike over the next month or so.

On this blog, we’ll take a closer look at three of the types of theft which significantly increase over the holiday season.


The holidays are one of the busiest shopping seasons of the year. Brick and mortar stores often seize on the holiday gift-giving spirit to hold sales and try and increase their revenue numbers from shoppers before the year closes out. Unfortunately, shoplifters also seize on this increased activity level to try and make off with merchandise without paying. It’s not uncommon to see increased loss prevention staffing, especially at large stores over the course of the holidays because of this trend, but even then they can only do so much to make sure the problem is as minimal as possible.

In New Jersey, shoplifting is a “wobbler” offense, which means that the severity of the charges you face will vary with the circumstances of the crime. In most cases, the severity of a theft offense depends on the value of the property stolen. If the value is less than $200, the crime is considered a “disorderly persons” offense, which can carry up to 10 days in jail, plus the possibility of restitution to the victim. However, offenses where the value of the property stolen exceeds $200 can become even more severe. The highest classification of shoplifting (property valued at over $75,000) is a crime of the second degree, which can carry up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $150,000.

Identity Theft

The world of online shopping grows bigger and bigger every year, and for good reason. Who really wants to deal with the hassle of crowds at your local stores when going gift shopping? With the widespread proliferation of free shipping and two-day or even same-day delivery, you can get exactly what you’re looking for delivered directly to you! However, online shopping does involve the transmission of secure, personal data, which thieves could do significant damage if they get ahold of. This includes names, addresses, credit card numbers, and other personally-identifiable information.

Identity theft in New Jersey is actually a series of different laws designed to cover a number of different similarly-related offenses. Theft of identity (2C:21-17) is assuming a false identity in order to commit a fraudulent act, and is a crime in the fourth degree. Assuming someone else’s identity (2C: 21-17.2) is a third degree offense. Using someone else’s personally-identifiable information is an offense in the second degree, including things like identifying documents, account information, addresses, and more. Wrongful access of information (2C: 20-31) is knowingly accessing a computer system or database where personally-identifying information is present, as well as disclosing that information. This is a third-degree offense, but is upgraded to a second-degree offense if the data is protected by the government.


If you’ve ever seen the film Home Alone, you probably remember the bumbling bandits who hung out in the young Kevin McAllister’s neighborhood disguised in a plumbing van. They weren’t there to fix leaky pipes—they were looking for homes where the families were gone. The holidays are a popular time for travel, whether it’s a vacation or a trip to see families, and that leaves homes full of valuable gifts ripe for the picking from would-be thieves. Today, thieves don’t even have to hang out in a neighborhood to figure out who’s not home: they can usually figure out who’s gone right from the comfort of their own home with social media posts that tell them so!

Burglary is the act of entering a premises illegally with the intent of committing any other crime, including theft. In New Jersey, this is considered a third-degree offense which is punishable by anywhere from three to five years in prison plus a fine of up to $15,000.

If you’re accused of a theft crime this holiday season, call the experienced Bergen County criminal defense attorney from the Law Offices of Joseph R. Donahue, LLC at (201) 574-7919 for a case evaluation!
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