Don’t think you’ll need an identity theft lawyer? Neither did the 47% of people in 2020 alone in the United States that experienced some form of financial identity theft. The statistics are somewhat inflated as unemployment identity theft rose due to fraudsters taking advantage of the current economic climate.
Lawyers that help with identity theft state that in the past two years:
- 37% of people experienced application fraud
- 38% of people had their accounts taken over
An identity theft lawyer should be the first person that you consult with, but there are many other steps that you need to take, too.
How An Identity Theft Attorney Can Help You Recover From Fraud
Identity theft is scary, puts your credit at risk, and takes a lot of time to correct. Unless you’re one of the thousands of identity theft attorneys dealing with theft on a daily basis, you likely don’t know what steps you need to take to reclaim your identity.
The first step is to breathe and be ready to make a lot of phone calls.
You’ll want to call a lawyer ASAP so that they can explain your legal rights and options to you. In the meantime, you’ll want to follow these steps:
1. Report Your Identity Theft
Credit bureaus can put a fraud alert on your credit report. You can also request reports from all three credit bureaus so that you can see:
- New charges on your accounts
- New or unauthorized accounts in your name
You’ll need to contact one of the three credit bureaus on your own to request that they put a fraud alert on your account and to request reports for you to look over. The three main bureaus and their contact information are:
- Equifax – You can go on the bureau’s website at https://www.equifax.com/ and call them at 800-525-6285 to place a fraud alert on your account.
- Experian – You can go on the Experian’s website at https://www.experian.com/ and call them at 888-397-3742 to place a fraud alert on your account.
- TransUnion – You can go on the TransUnion’s website at https://www.transunion.com/ and call them at 800-680-7289 to place a fraud alert on your account.
Some credit bureaus allow you to place a freeze on your accounts, too. You can sign up for an account on many of the portals listed above to reduce the damage caused by the theft.
The fraud alert remains in place for an entire year and can be renewed as necessary.
Note: By law, you should only need to contact one of the bureaus and they will contact the other bureaus. In an abundance of caution, a lot of victims call all three bureaus just in case.
2. Contact Each of Your Creditors
The credit report requests in the previous section provide valuable insight into which creditors you’ll want to contact. Browse through the report, write down all of the known and unknown creditors, and then go through the lengthy process listed below:
- Call the creditor’s fraud department or call the customer service department and ask to be transferred to the fraud department.
- Contact every creditor, whether or not fraud has occurred on their respective accounts.
- Report the theft and ask for all compromised accounts to be closed and/or a new account/card be furnished.
- Fill out the forms, affidavits and letters on IdentitfyTheft.gov and send them to creditors. You can call the creditor first to ensure that they’ll accept the affidavit.
- Ask for written confirmation of your calls.
Even if an account isn’t compromised, it’s wise to cancel the account or have new accounts created for you that the fraudster can’t access.
Keep in mind that creditors aren’t just credit card companies. For example, a creditor can be a:
- Cable company
- Electric company
- Cell phone service provider
- Utility provider
If you don’t recognize an account on your report, the thief likely opened up accounts on your behalf.
3. Contact Financial Institutions and Banks
Banks and credit unions should be the next companies that you contact. If you believe that the thief has access to your checks or accounts, call and put a stop payment on all checks that you didn’t issue yourself.
Call the lender for any loans taken out in your name, such as:
- Car loan
- Personal loan
Credit card companies, when you can prove fraud, will remove unauthorized charges from the account.
4. Contact Local Law Enforcement
Local police will have difficulty trying to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that someone stole your identity. However, if a local business has surveillance footage of the person using your accounts, this evidence can be invaluable.
Otherwise, it can be challenging to prove that a person stole your identity.
In either case, calling law enforcement allows you to:
- File a report
- Provide information to the police
- Request the police report
Creditors will often ask for a police report for proof that your identity has been stolen. Even if the police cannot find the thief, the report will be vital for clearing your debts.
Additional Steps to Take to Protect Your Identity
You should log into all of your online accounts that may be impacted by the theft and change all of your:
Change your email information if your account is compromised. Running a virus and malware scan on your computer or other devices may help if the theft occurred digitally.
While you’re at it, go back to IdentityTheft.gov and create an identity theft recovery plan. You can also take the time to report the theft on the site.
Depending on the state in question, you may seek a court order to declare yourself a victim of identity theft. The court order helps provide proof to creditors that there’s been an issue with your identity and is vital if you want to correct false or inaccurate information on your account.
Your identity theft lawyer can seek this court order on your behalf, too.
I Found the Person Who Stole My Identity. Now What?
Your first instinct might be to confront the thief and demand your identity back. Unfortunately, you are constrained by the confines of the law. You need proof that the person stole your identity, and they’ll still have the right to defend themselves in court.
The individual is innocent until proven guilty.
An identity theft lawyer can:
- Hire private investigators
- Gather proof
Once your lawyer has proof, you can sue them for identity theft if the thief can be found. You’ll be able to sue for:
- Invasion of privacy
- Emotional stress
- Financial damages
You may be able to file damages for negligence, breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty and more. In addition, identity theft attorneys will seek compensation for numerous damages.
- Compensatory damages for your financial losses directly related to the theft.
- Emotional damages for the emotional suffering you’ve experienced, such as anxiety, depression or others.
- Injunctive relief or the release of debt from your name.
- Punitive damages, which may be awarded if your information was exposed.
Correcting the damages of identity theft is a long, arduous process. An identity theft lawyer can represent you in court, call creditors and work to restore your identity. If the thief is found, the lawyer can take legal steps to hold them accountable for their actions.