Can You Sue Someone for Identity Theft?

How To Get Compensation After Someone Steals Your Identity – If you are reading this, you are probably suspecting that someone somewhere has stolen your identity. Using only small bits of your information, like a name, credit card, or social security number, identity thieves can cause all kinds of legal and financial havoc, some of which can take years to clean up.

Needless to say, when one discovers identity theft, they’ll need to act fast to prevent further damage. So what then do you do if you discover that your identity has been stolen? And what legal actions can you take against a suspect?

Let’s find out.

How to detect identity theft

Although hard to detect, there are usually a few telltale signs that’ll point identity theft out. It might be

  • Credit card maxing out for no reason
  • Reduced credit score or unexplained late payments showing up on your credit reports
  • In the worst case, it can even be a warrant issued for your arrest after someone gave your name and details to a police officer during an arrest

Can I sue someone for identity theft?

Ideally, anyone’s first move would be to file a lawsuit against the person who stole their identity. But in reality, identity thieves are notoriously hard to locate. If you do know the person and have substantial evidence to back you up, then you can start by filing a report against them to the relevant authorities and wait.

However, if the actual identity thief cannot be found, you can still sue another responsible party. This can be any other party who could access your credit card number, social security number, or other personal information including:

  • Banks
  • Creditors
  • Employers
  • Government entities
  • Other financial institutions

The liability will depend on the parties and their relationship with the type of identity theft in question. One can sue for everything from negligence and invasion of privacy to breach of contract, inflicting emotional distress, and publication of private details.

It is important that as you provide any information about stolen identity to your attorney, you give out as many details as you can. A small fact can make a huge impact on determining who is liable and the best route to recovery.

What happens when someone is accused of identity theft?

Depending on the extent of injury and nature of the defendant, if proven guilty, the defendant might have to compensate the accuser in different ways, including:

  • Compensatory damages – this includes reimbursing the accuser for any financial losses that occurred as a result of the identity theft
  • Emotional damages – there might also be additional compensation if the victim went through emotional distress like depression or anxiety as a result of the theft
  • Injunctive relief – the defendant will also have to release the victim from any debts they owed but didn’t accrue
  • Punitive damage – this is compensation for intentionally leaking or recklessly exposing the victim’s personal information

Tips on preventing identity theft

The main way to prevent your identity from being stolen is to keep your personal information from getting into the hands of strangers in the first place. And you can do this by:

Place a security freeze on your credit report

By placing a credit freeze on your report, any access to your credit report will be cut off, which means credit bureaus can’t share such information when requested.

By doing so, you’ll make it extremely hard for someone to open an account using your social security number. The good thing is that you can always lift the freeze whenever you want.

Set up a credit report fraud alert

Your next move should be to contact the major credit bureaus, including Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion, requesting that they place a fraud alert on your account. The alert will remain on your credit report for at least 12 months.

Through the time, it will notify any financial institution requesting your credit report that your identity might be compromised. The institutions should then counter-check with every individual applying for credit to ensure it is you.

Make sure that you occasionally check the status of all your accounts, including those that have been dormant, just to check if there are any suspicious changes.

What if my identity is already stolen? How can I prevent it from happening again?

In the instance that your identity is already stolen, you can prevent further identity theft by:

Notify any relevant companies that your identity has been stolen

Perhaps the first and most important move is to notify any affiliated institutions that might have been targeted. For instance, if bills are being made out to your bank account, it probably means that your credit card number is compromised. In this case, you simply need to call your credit card issuer and have them block all transactions made using your cards.

On the other hand, it can be a more serious instance of impersonation. This is when someone uses your social security number to open up other accounts in your name or get medical care through your medical insurance. Here, you might need to take it a notch further and contact other agencies, like the IRS or insurance company.

Make sure that you report to your local police department

Of course, you can’t go without reporting to your local police department. Sure, they might not really do much about identity thieves working overseas or online, but the report might help locate a local identity thief.

Make sure you ask for a copy of the report for your personal records. A written report stating that your identity has been stolen can help absolve you in the future if someone uses your identity to commit a crime.

Contact the Federal Trade Commission and file a report

The next institution you should follow up with is the FTC (Federal Trade Commission). The commission is charged with compiling cases of identity theft. While they might not have the mandate to pursue criminal charges, such information might be used by law enforcement like the FBI or Interpol to track down perpetrators.

You can file the report by visiting the FTC website. Afterwards, they should issue you pre-filled forms that you can use to dispute fraudulent charges or file police reports.

Identity theft is not exactly an experience one looks forward to. And while you might not be able to stop it from happening, you can act to prevent it from getting worse. Hopefully, with some of the information above, you can get something back from it all and even protect yourself from future attacks.

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