Identity Theft Lawyer
What is an Identity Theft Lawyer?
An identity theft lawyer or identity theft attorney is a lawyer with specific knowledge of the circumstances that surround identity theft. Identity theft can be complex and can involve the criminal justice system as well as institutions such as banks. An identity theft lawyer can help a victim navigate the many issues that arise if their identity was stolen.
What is Identity Theft?
Identity theft is defined by the United States Department of Justice all types of crimes that involve obtaining and using someone else’s personal data through fraud or deception for economic gain. Identity theft can occur in different ways, including in public places and through technology.
Identity theft can have serious and long-lasting consequences and it can be difficult to prove you did not, in fact, make a certain purchase or file false taxes. An individual may also end up with a criminal history if the identity thief used their information. Because of this, it is important to be careful when providing your personal data in any setting.
How Can My Identity be Stolen?
An individual’s identity can be stolen in several ways, including:
- Mail theft - Stealing mail from the mailbox including credit card offers and bank statements;
- Robbery - Taking someone’s wallet which usually includes personal information such as a driver’s license and credit cards;
- Dumpster diving - Going through trash to find documents containing personal information and/or account numbers;
- Computer fraud - Hacking into computer systems and taking personal information; and/or
- Phishing - Scamming information from victims by pretending to be a legitimate business person, such as an employer conducting a job interview.
How Can I Protect Myself From Identity Theft?
An individual can protect themselves from identity theft by safeguarding their personal information. The most crucial documents are bank statements and credit card information. It may be necessary to develop new habits to keep information safe, such as:
- Putting any documents containing personal information in a paper shredder instead of the garbage can;
- Asking a trusted family member or other individual to get mail when a person is out of town;
- Notifying the post office if a person changes their address;
- Cancelling lost or stolen credit cards immediately;
- Keeping debit and credit cards in a safe place where they will not be stolen;
- Using antivirus software on the home computer;
- Using a password or passcode on any electronic device that contains personal information and may be stolen; and/or
- Only communicating personal information through a secure and trusted website, not by email.
What Do I Do if My Identity has been Stolen?
If an individual is or thinks they are a victim of identity theft, they should notify the authorities. If evidence is available, law enforcement will provide the case to the local District Attorney’s Office for prosecution.
A victim should immediately contact their banks and credit card companies to inform them of the theft and cancel any cards. Accounts can also be frozen or closed if necessary. Identity theft can also be reported to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
Is It Important to Have an Identity Theft Lawyer?
Yes, it is important to have an identity theft lawyer. A lawyer can help navigate the complicated issues that arise from identity theft. A lawyer can also help communicate with entities such as the credit bureaus, banks and prosecutors. An experienced lawyer will know what steps need to be taken to protect your interest and attempt to reverse the damage done by an identity thief.
An identity theft lawyer can help during the prosecution of the criminal. Any fines ordered as a result of prosecution will go to the federal or state government. A lawyer can help the victim request restitution, which will require the defendant to compensate the victim for out-of-pocket costs incurred as a result of the crime.
An identity theft lawyer can help with a civil lawsuit for damages. A victim may be eligible to collect:
Compensatory damages are the most commonly awarded type of damages. These will cover financial losses incurred as a result of the identity theft.
Punitive damages are rarely awarded in identity theft cases. These damages include additional monetary compensation and are meant to punish and deter the criminal from future crimes.
Emotional distress damages may be available to a victim who suffered emotional distress as a result of the crime. This may include anxiety and/or depression. It is often difficult to obtain these damages.
An injunction is a court order that requires an individual to refrain from a certain action or activity. In cases of identity theft, a court may order the criminal to apologize, notify individuals about data exposure and release the victim from financial liability that occurs due to their crimes.
Should You Hire an Identity Theft Lawyer?
Yes, you should hire an identity theft lawyer. Identity theft can have lasting and serious consequences. It can be difficult to deal with a situation where you are being punished for things you did not do. A lawyer can help analyze your case and determine the best steps for you to take.
An identity theft lawyer can help you contact any necessary entities or departments and facilitate useful communication. They can also help you determine whether you can sue the criminal for identity theft and recover damages.