Find an Identity Theft Attorney

Find out what steps to take if you are a victim of identity theft. Learn how an identity theft attorney can protect you from fraudulent charges.

Identity theft is a growing problem across the world. Identity theft is a broad term referencing any type of crime where an individual steals your personal information and impersonates you. This is often done for financial reasons, such as opening a credit account under your name, maxing out the card and leaving you with the bill. Other crimes involve deceiving different agencies to receive your benefits. There are even some identity thieves who sell fake identities to other criminals.

Identity theft is a dangerous crime because it is challenging to prove. Credit companies or benefit providers will view your claim with skepticism, thinking you are trying to take advantage of the system. Credit providers and other financiers may also be left with unpaid charges if you claim identity theft, so without adequate proof, they may deny your claim to get paid. If you are a victim of identity theft, the best way to avoid penalties and prove you were a victim is to hire an identity theft attorney to represent your case.

Types of Identity Theft

While identity theft is most commonly associated with credit card fraud, there are many other variants. Tax identity theft occurs when an identity theft pretends to be you to receive your tax return. Some criminals will also use your personal information to commit medical fraud. In these instances, the criminal claims medication only you are eligible for, either changing the delivery address or picking the medication up directly from the pharmacy. 

Another crime that many victims do not realize is identity theft involves online fraud. While your online identity may not be linked to your personal identity, it is still a valuable prize for criminals. Many websites allow you to store your financial information on your account, so you can easily check out without having to enter your credit card information each time. While the actual credit card number is often hidden except for the last four digits, identity thieves can still make purchases on your account, changing your delivery address to a new location.

Steps to Take after Identity Theft

If you are a victim of identity theft, you need to act fast. Many banks and credit providers monitor your accounts and alert you to any suspicious activity. If you notice any unusual charges on your account, alert it to your credit card provider, bank or benefit agency immediately. Make it clear you are not in control of the account and need to freeze the assets and flag any recent purchases as fraudulent. If you are able to catch the charges while they are still processing, the company may be able to cancel the transaction outright.

Even if the charge is cancelled, you must make a fraud alert with the three major credit bureaus, Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. You can also request a free credit report from either of these agencies. This lets you see if there are any unusual charges across your other accounts. It also reduces the odds of your credit score taking a hit because of identity theft, which is normally one of the most severe consequences. It is also a good way to see if any lines of credit or loans were taken out in your name.

After reporting the incident to the major credit unions, the next step is to file a report with the FTC and your local police department. While it is unfortunately difficult for police to catch an identity theft, making a report helps keep your reputation intact. If the identity thief has more nefarious purposes for your identity, reporting the theft to the police may stop you from being charged with a criminal offense if the identity thief commits a crime in your name.

When to Hire an Identity Thief Lawyer

Once you file all the necessary reports, the next step is to hire an identity thief attorney. While you may be tempted to hire an attorney first, you do not want to risk your thief committing a crime with your stolen identity. Hiring an attorney takes time, and you do not want to rush your selection. If the theft is caught early and all pending charges are cancelled, you will not need an attorney.

If you are unable to catch any false charges in time, an attorney can help you prove you were not the one to make the purchase or collect the benefits the thief claimed. Identity theft lawyers will represent you in negotiations with your bank or credit companies, arguing you are not responsible for the charges because you were not the one to make the purchase or collect benefits.

Depending on how your identity was stolen, you may even be eligible for damages. A common tactic identity thieves use is exploiting online vulnerabilities to breach a user database. When a company or bank loses user information, this is known as a data breach. Legally, businesses are required to report when a data breach occurs so their users have an opportunity to change their passwords and monitor their accounts for fraudulent activities. If you are the victim of identity theft because of a data breach, your attorney will push for the breached company to make amends and pay for any damage caused as a result of your identity being stolen.

You can also hire an identity theft attorney if your reputation is damaged as a result of a criminal impersonating you. If a criminal commits a crime in your name, you are held responsible. Even if the matter is cleared with the police, potential employers or lenders may deny you services because your name is associated with a criminal. An identity theft attorney will fight to clear your name and keep you from being unfairly judged. 

Hiring an Identity Theft Attorney

There are many resources available to help you locate a lawyer. If you are unsure where to begin, you can search for lawyers in your area through the American Bar Association (ABA) directory. Hiring an attorney is often an expensive process, with many lawyers charging several hundred dollars per hour, with additional costs for court appearances. In most cases, you are not collecting damages from identity theft cases, instead clearing your name or getting rid of false charges. This means you are paying attorney fees out of pocket instead of giving your lawyer a percentage of what you make. 

If you are unable to afford an attorney, you can look for a lawyer who will take your case pro bono. When an attorney takes a pro bono case, he or she waives your legal fees. The Department of Justice has an online resource to help you locate pro bono lawyers in your state.