Identity theft is a costly crime, draining you both financially and emotionally. Victims feel exposed, embarrassed, and angry. Some never fully recover the money they lose, their credit score, or their reputation.
If perpetrated by a stranger, it’s easier to understand why they would take advantage of a random data vulnerability for personal financial gain. If a family member or friend takes advantage of their relationship with you, the loss of trust can be devastating.
At Stecklein & Rapp, we help victims of identity theft explore and pursue their options for righting the wrongs caused by strangers and loved ones alike. If you live in Kansas City, Missouri, Lincoln, Nebraska, or Kansas City, Kansas, or anywhere in Eastern Kansas, Western Missouri, Nebraska, or Colorado, we can help you get your life back on track. That’s what we do.
What Is Identity Theft?
Identity theft is criminal fraud in which someone accesses and uses a victim’s personal information for their own gain and at the expense of the victim. The perpetrator may steal your identity for financial gain, tax and employment fraud, to obtain prescription drugs or medical services, or to provide law enforcement with false information that identifies you as the lawbreaker rather than them.
One of the inherent challenges with identity theft is the length of time and the damage done before a victim becomes aware of it. Warning signs that someone may be using your identity fraudulently may include:
- Noticing suspicious charges on credit cards, a drop in your credit score caused by lenders running credit checks on applications, the opening of new credit accounts, and defaults on credit cards and loans you aren’t aware of
- Prescription drugs or medical services you didn’t obtain appearing on health insurance explanation of benefits
- Notification from the Internal Revenue Service that you have already filed your income tax returns when you have not
- A notice of increased premiums or refusal to reinsure your vehicle based on your credit score
- An arrest warrant served for your failure to appear in court for a traffic citation
- A denial for college admission or financial aid based on your credit history
What Laws Apply to Identity Theft?
Every state has laws prohibiting identity theft. Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, and Colorado laws make identity theft a misdemeanor or felony offense punishable by incarceration, fines, and restitution to the victim.
Because states deal with identity theft violations differently, Congress made it a federal crime in 1998, and in 2004, added additional penalties for aggravated cases and those involving identity theft to commit acts of terrorism.
What Should I Do if Someone I Know Steals My Identity?
The first thing you should do when you discover you are a victim is to check your credit reports with all major reporting agencies and report any fraud and corrections. You could opt for a credit freeze to keep the perpetrator from doing any further damage or close accounts. You need to understand how any such actions may affect your credit score.
If a stranger steals your identity, you likely would not hesitate to have them face the full extent of punishment under state and federal law. If the perpetrator is your partner, child, or sibling, how you choose to remedy the situation becomes infinitely more personal.
You can report the theft to local law enforcement who will investigate the crime and submit evidence to the prosecuting attorney who will then prosecute the offender. You can also file a report with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) or inform the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Doing so may be the only way some creditors will work with you in the wake of fraudulent activity. However, once you take any of these actions, what happens to the perpetrator is out of your control. Depending on your relationship with the perpetrator, you may not want them to suffer the criminal consequences of their actions.
You can file a civil lawsuit against the perpetrator to obtain a judgment against them that orders repayment of your damages and losses. Although winning a civil judgment does not involve the incarceration and criminal record of the defendant, a judgment is nonetheless a matter of public record. If they default on repayment of the judgment, they can be held in contempt. Again, while you would probably not hesitate to file a lawsuit against a stranger, you may be reluctant to file one against someone you know.
If you want to preserve your relationship with the perpetrator, you can attempt to resolve the matter privately.
How Stecklein & Rapp Can Help
Perhaps the best first step you can take when you find out that someone has stolen your identity is to contact the identity theft attorneys at Stecklein & Rapp. We have the knowledge and experience to walk you through the options you have to begin getting your life back. We help victims fight back, even if their reckoning is with someone they know.
If you are a victim of identity theft in Kansas City, Missouri or Kansas, or in Nebraska or Colorado, we can provide the information you need to choose the best course of action for you. Call us now and let’s begin.