If you understand the legal issues of identity theft you might have a better chance of minimizing or totally recovering any financial losses if you are victimized by this crime.
How Identity Theft Happens
An identity thief usually takes a few pieces of your private information and uses it to obtain more information about you. For example, the thief can use your name and address to obtain a fake driver's license which can, in turn, be used at many banks to open a bank account and obtain an ATM card. If the thief has your Social Security Number he or she can access your confidential credit history and other personal records.
An identity thief can use the information to take on your identity and to build a new life using your identity by:
- Renting an apartment based on your good credit bureau rating
- Obtaining a credit card
- Establishing a telephone number
- Filing medical claims
- Filing for tax refunds
Consequences of Identity Theft
You may not find out that your identity has been stolen until you receive your credit card or bank statement, are denied for insurance or get arrested for a crime you did not commit.Identify theft can result in the use of your private information to commit fraud or other crimes. Identity theft can result in:
- Loan fraud - Loans can be taken out in your name and your bank could try to hold you responsible for the repayment of the money loaned.
- Credit card fraud - Purchases and cash advances could be made with your card number and you wouldn't know about them until you saw the charges on your credit card statement.
- Bank fraud - Checking accounts can be opened in your name and you could be held responsible for checks written for amounts in excess of the balance in the account.
- Employment fraud - Your good credit history and your clean police record could be used by an identity theft to get a job.
- Insurance fraud - Your medical record could be used by an identity theft to file an insurance claim.
If your identity has been stolen, you could end up:
- Denied credit
- Paying default interest rates due to non payment
- Denied a job or a promotion
- Being arrested
Legal Issues of Identity Theft
There are many laws that deal with identify theft - both Federal and state. Identity theft itself is a Federal crime. It is also covered by specific laws in many states. The more you understand about the legal issues of identity theft, the more you will be prepared to protect yourself against identity theft. You will also have a greater chance of recovering from any losses due to the theft.One of the most helpful identity theft laws is the Federal Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act which started the practice of creditors having to double check the identity of any consumer who has placed a fraud alert in their credit files. This double check is called the National Fraud Alert System. You can place an alert system in your credit file by using fraud alert services such as LifeLock Fraud Alert Service
Suits by Victims
Victims of identity theft can file suits. Federal laws such as the Fair Credit Reporting Act and the constitutional right to privacy and many state criminal codes provide the right to:
- Sue the thief for damages due to the identify theft
- Sue the institutions that erroneously gave the confidential information to the thief such as financial institutions and credit reporting agencies
Correcting Medical Misinformation
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) was designed to protect patients from unauthorized access to personal medical information. But unfortunately, HIPAA can also make it more difficult to correct any misinformation in your medical records that may be the result of an identify theft. For example, you will need to prove that you are, in fact, the "real person" who owns the Social Security Number in the file, even if the thief has substituted your entire file with their medical information.
Duty to Mitigate Damages
If you are the victim of identity theft you are usually required to take actions which are necessary to minimize the impact of the identity theft in order to:
- Demonstrate to the institutions which you are suing that you are willing to help lessen the damages
- Maximize the amount of financial recovery you can receive in a lawsuit
- Show the legal authorities that you were not involved in the theft
The actions required could include closing accounts, changing passwords, filing legal complaints and reporting the theft of the personal information.
Get a Lawyer
Get a lawyer to help you through the legal issues if you have been the victim of identity theft. A lawyer can help you identify the actions you must take and will know the process to use to get your identity (and any stolen money!) back to you where it belongs.
For More Information
- Federal Trade Commission
- Identity Theft Laws
- HIPAA Privacy Rule
- Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act