Is there an unknown transaction on your credit card bill? Are you being summoned for something you did not do? These instances can be an indication of identity theft. Identity theft can have serious damages and implications that can last for years to come, especially if the crime dents your credit history and reputation. A stolen identity can be misused for financial gain, fraud, criminal activities, or commercial gains. If you are a victim of identity theft, you must take immediate attention to dampen the impact of the damages it can cause. One of the best ways to deal with the situation is to hire an identity theft attorney who can help you reclaim your identity and fix the damages that may have been caused by the culprit.
Identity theft or identity fraud is an act when a person misuses the personal information of another person and assumes his or her identity. Typically, thieves use stolen identities for financial gain. Most identity thieves use information such as social security numbers, date of birth, addresses, phone numbers, bank account information, fax numbers, credit card numbers, and email addresses. With the information, a thief can withdraw money from your bank account, get new credit cards in your name, or use your credit card information to make purchases.
Identity thieves get their hands on such sensitive information by obtaining access to your unique identifying information such as personal identification numbers (PIN), credit history, and credit scores and reports. They use a variety of methods such as phishing, hacking, and social engineering to get access to this information. Other methods that identity thieves use include physical stealing of mail, wallets, or purse.
Identity theft can be categorized into the following types:
In cases of financial identity theft, the thief tries to use the victim’s information to get credit cards, loans, or purchase other products. Falling victim to financial identity theft can significantly hurt your credit score and ratings. This can prevent you from getting a loan. You can stay vigilant against financial identity theft by checking your credit history from time to time. If you find unknown creditors on inquiries on the list, this could be an indication of identity theft.
When someone uses another person’s uniquely identifiable information to fraudulently avail medical services, insurance, or prescription drugs, it is termed as medical identity theft. This type of theft is complex and can be hard to resolve. While financial identity theft can damage your credit score, medical identity theft can result in inaccurate medical records that can keep you from getting proper insurance coverage.
Criminal identity theft occurs when someone falsely claims to be someone else. This happens when criminals either get state-issued documents using credentials that they gained access to or create a fake ID. If the trick works, the criminal charges are wrongly filed against the identity theft victim and the criminal walks free. Criminal identity theft victims come to know about the incident simply by chance. For instance, the victim may receive a court summons, or find out that their driver’s license has been suspended when stopped for minor traffic violations. There are chances that the criminal charges may reflect on the victim’s records even when they have been cleared by the courts.
Identity theft is prosecuted under both federal crime and consumer protection. The Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act of 1998 criminalizes the intentional use of another person’s identification with the intent to aid, abet, or commit an activity that violates the federal, state, or local law. Violations under the Act are prosecuted by the Department of Justice and investigated by several federal agencies such as the FBI, Secret Service, Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the U.S Postal Inspection Service. Acts of identity thefts are also criminalized under state law but these laws vary from state to state.
Besides federal and state criminal laws, identity thefts are also prosecuted under federal and state consumer laws. The aim of including identity theft under state and federal consumer laws is to regulate and prevent entities that have access to sensitive consumer information from sharing the records. Lawsuits filed under federal consumer laws are investigated and prosecuted by the Federal Trade Commission. On the other hand, most states have a special agency dedicated to consumer protection.
If you believe you are a victim of identity theft then the first step you need to take is to file a report with the police. This is essential as it will help you deal with collection companies, creditors, collection agencies, insurance agencies, banks, and will help you prove your innocence in court if you are a victim of criminal identity theft.
The second step you need to take is to inform any bank, financial institution, medical institute, or insurance company that you have been a victim of identity theft. This step is essential to ensure you are not held liable for any damages and fraudulent charges that might have occurred due to identity theft.
After you have informed the concerned authorities and parties you need to review how your unique personal information reached the hands of the identity thief.
Ideally, you would like to sue the identity thief who stole your identity and used it for his or her benefit. However, finding these thieves can be difficult. In most cases, the identity thief may not be the only one responsible for the theft. Other parties who had access to your personal information and failed to protect it can also be held legally liable. These parties may be:
Identity can be stolen in several ways which make the act subject to numerous liability theories. The nature of the claim you bring to court will depend on the type of identity theft you have been a victim of and the particular facts in your case. Some liable causes of actions that you can sue these parties for are:
Depending on the reason for liability, the extent of damages, and the party you are suing, you can demand several forms of compensation:
The compensation received under these damages is for any financial losses that you may have incurred due to the identity theft.
If you suffered from emotional distress such as anxiety and depression due to identity theft then you can demand the liable party to pay emotional damages.
These damages are awarded to the victim if the defendant is found to be recklessly or intentionally responsible for exposing the victim’s personal information.
Under this court order, a victim is relieved of damages that they incur due to identity theft.
Hiring an identity theft lawyer will benefit you in the following ways:
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