Identity theft happens when someone steals your personally identifiable information and uses it to their own advantage, often opening up accounts or committing online crimes with your name. This is a federal crime, and you have the right to sue someone when it happens to you.
Who Can Be Held Liable for Identity Theft?
Obviously, the thief should be held liable for your stolen identity and the consequences of it. But you might be surprised to learn that they aren’t the only ones who can be held liable. Other people or agencies also share responsibility, such as:
- Credit bureaus
- Credit agencies
These companies are responsible for noticing fraudulent activity or activity that doesn’t follow regular patterns. They have the legal duty to care for you as a consumer. When they breach that duty and it results in damage to your life, you may be able to sue them.
Your Rights When Suing for Identity Theft
Your rights include:
- To be protected from the accused thief
- Accurate, timely, and reasonable notification of all court proceedings
- Accurate, timely, and reasonable notification of the accused’s parole, release, or escape
- Access to any court matters (unless the judge finds that your testimony would change by hearing other people’s testimonies.)
- To be heard at any court proceeding
- To discuss the case with the government attorney
- Restitution as covered by the law
- Proceedings that go forth in a timely manner
- To be treated with dignity, respect, and privacy
When Can You Sue Someone for Identity Theft?
Identity thieves steal and use information including, but not limited to:
- Social security numbers
- Phone numbers
- Fax numbers
- Physical addresses
- Email addresses
- Previous names
- Bank account numbers
- Credit card information
Every situation is different. Your best bet is to discuss your unique situation with your local consumer attorney to get advice exactly suited to your case.
You can begin the identity theft report by filing the crime with your local law enforcement agency.
What Types of Compensation Are Available for Identity Theft?
If someone steals your identity, it can ruin your life. It can take years to get your credit and name back in good standing. You have the right to sue to recover damages.
You can recover damages for things such as:
- Privacy invasion
- Appropriation of a victim’s likeness
- Emotional distress
These damages are usually split up into three categories:
- Compensatory Damages - To replace the money you lost as a result of the theft
- Punitive damages - An extra fee to prevent the thief from committing another violation
- Equitable relief - To prohibit the criminal from performing another act of identity theft
What to Do After You’ve Been a Victim
After you’ve pursued legal action, you can keep yourself safe in other way. You have rights to take extra steps when you have been a victim of identity theft. You are able to:
- Put a 90-day fraud alert on your credit report. If anyone uses your credit report in this three-month period, they have to verify who is applying for the credit. You can notify any of the three main credit bureaus to put this alert in place; they will notify the others.
- Put a seven-year fraud alert on your credit report. You can contact each credit reporting company and give them an identity theft report. They will put your information on a list so that you must be personally contacted before credit can be taken out under your information.
- Receive a free copy of your credit report. You are entitled to one free report when you place the three-month hold and two within a year when you place the extended hold. You are also still entitled to the free credit report available to all consumers each year.
- Ask credit agencies to block fraudulent information from showing on your report. You have to send them a report of the identity theft, proof of who you are, and a letter detailing the fraud.
- Dispute anything erroneous on your report. These disputes must be investigated. If the errors are truly wrong, they have to be removed within 30 days.
- Freeze your credit report (in certain states). This makes it harder for an identity thief to use your information.
Fraudulent debt (if it’s reported) can never be turned over to debt collectors. When you report the debt and take appropriate action, you are saving yourself even more time and hassle down the road.
Getting compensated for the damage, stress, and loss caused by identity theft is well within your rights. Having a lawyer on your side can make the process go much more smoothly and make it more likely that you receive a settlement that matches what you deserve.