ITRC Fact Sheet 106
Organizing Your Identity Theft Case
This guide discusses the sets of documents that each victim is recommended to keep:
Identity theft cases can become very complex. You may be dealing with multiple jurisdictions. There may be numerous instances of unauthorized and fraudulent use of your identity. You may have had more conversations about your case than you can keep track of in your head. In order to become an effective, strong advocate for your case, it is vital to impose a form of organization on your case from the first day.
- You need to keep and track evidence, paperwork and contacts.
- You should keep a journal to help you remember what occurred, when you received documents, what documents you still need, as well as your costs and time lost.
- All of your papers are evidence in a criminal case and should be treated as such.
- Don’t allow papers to pile up on that black hole called a desk: visible to everyone, safe from no one.
This is a chronological and detailed journal of events which is best kept in a bound booklet, ledger-type book or electronic document.
- Dated log: Keep a dated log either on the computer or on paper. A bound booklet, like a ledger book where pages cannot be easily removed, carries a great deal of weight in a court case. Start with the first contact, letter or call as a victim of identity theft and continue from there. Make sure you have updated security systems in place if you use a computer. Don’t use post-its or scraps of paper as they tend to get lost. If necessary tape them into your dated log.
- Journaling: Keep track of each person you spoke with, their title, employee number, phone and fax number, email address and the procedure you need to use to reach them easily (i.e., Punch 2, then *, then 41). Include what they said, any follow-up needed from that call and the date that follow-up should occur.
- Confirm agreements and discussions: Whenever possible ask for written confirmation of a discussion. If refused, mail or e-mail a “Confirmation of Discussion” to that person stating that if the information as you listed it is incorrect, they should contact you. When they don’t, what you have could be considered a confirmation of the call. Mail this by return receipt requested mail so you have a paper trail. Fax or email is acceptable only if you get a written response of receipt.
- Log items received and sent: Keep a log of what you receive, who sent it, and what steps you took that day with that piece of mail or the phone call.
- Telephone records: To find numbers quickly you may want to start a separate telephone and address book. However, also include this information in the official case log. Some victims like to use the last few pages of the log as a directory, working backwards as it grows.
The items below will become the basis of your request for restitution, but you have the burden of proving these costs occurred. The judge has the right to refuse anything he/she deems unreasonable. Keep in mind restitution is the court’s effort to make you financially whole by recovering legitimate expenses. Punitive damages are not recoverable via restitution.
- Costs: Keep a log of every penny you spend, when it occurred, what it was used for. Attach receipts to the sheets of paper in your log, documenting what it was for. If necessary, you can photocopy them later for court cases in the event that restitution is allowed.
- Track phone calls, postage, mileage, legal assistance, notarizing, and court costs for documentation. Time lost from work, including vacation time used on your case is also considered an expense. If you decide to purchase any self-help materials (i.e., books, an organizer) or pay for assistance (i.e., babysitting, accountant, or an attorney), these costs might also be considered by the courts for restitution.
- Document the time you spend working on your case. Your time spent is your largest investment.
- Did you need to see a doctor because of emotional distress or physical ailments? Save those bills, record the time you took to see the doctor, and travel expenses. The judge has the discretion to consider these costs for restitution.
- Did you get arrested because of the imposter’s actions, have to post bail, or lose time from work because of an arrest? The judge has the discretion to consider these costs for restitution.
If possible, we recommend you attend all court hearings from the Arraignment on. Take notes. Who was the judge? Who was the DA that day? What was said by the DA, the defense attorney, the defendant, and the judge? When is the next court date? What will occur then? Ask questions of the DA after your case is heard if you aren’t certain about what happened or what will happen next. See ITRC Fact Sheet FS 109 - The Court Experience for guidelines on what might occur.
From one victim: “ During the sentencing phase of my case, I noted that the imposter was prohibited from collecting personal data from any persons unless she provided to them a written notice that she was a convicted felon of false personation. Just before the review hearing, the police did a search of her home. They found more unauthorized employee applications plus more information about me. When I was questioned by the police about this, I reminded them of this probation requirement. The probation summary didn’t note it, so the judge ordered a copy of the sentencing transcript. The imposter ended up serving jail time for probation violations --- because I did my homework and had taken good notes”.
Some people need to vent, to write down their frustrations, emotions, and fears. Write down your suspicions and emotional outbursts in a separate journal from the official log of the case. As your case goes on, you will forget these small details unless they are documented. Do not show this to any other person except your own attorney should you decide to proceed with a civil case (family court actions, punitive damages, etc.). This notebook is for you and you alone.
We advise that you file away all papers as soon as you receive them.
- Police report: This item is of highest priority. Request a copy of the report or at least a case summary of it. If that fails, file your report with the Federal Trade Commission. Fill out the FTC complaint, give a copy to the police and ask them to stamp a second copy which YOU will keep as “received.” You might be able to substitute that for a police report in some jurisdictions. Your case number may change as it moves through the judicial system. Keep track of them all, noting who uses which number.
- Applications, credit slips, credit cards, and physical proof of the fraud: Keep everything you receive by mail that relates to your case or may relate to your case, even if you don’t understand its significance at the time. Depending on the complexity of your case, you may even decide to keep a separate section for each credit grantor involved.
- As soon as you find out about a new credit card, purchase or crime, request all documentation regarding that action. Do not take no for an answer. If the first person will not help, speak with the supervisor. If he/she cannot help, keep going higher up. The Federal Fair Credit Reporting Act section 609e, states they must provide you with application and transaction records, with a request from you accompanied by a police report. You also can ask that they send copies to a designated law enforcement agency – the one that is working on your case. It is best to have it sent to the detective assigned to your case.
- The police will be interested in seeing these, although in some jurisdictions they cannot use them as evidence. In some states they will need to request a search warrant and officially receive these forms from the credit grantors — chain of evidence requirements.
- Credit reports: Your first report will be sent to you for free due to suspected victimization. After that, you may choose to use the federal free credit report program for continuing to view your reports. See ITRC Fact Sheet FS 125 - Federal Annual Free Credit Report Law. You should also place a fraud alert on your credit report. With a police report it can be extended to seven years. Keep your credit reports in one locked location to track changes as they occur.
- Copies of all letters you send or receive regarding this case: If you feel you are not up to the task of writing them from scratch, many good form letters are available on the ITRC website, www.idtheftcenter.org.
- All court documents: This may include subpoenas, probation reports, and transcripts of testimony, if necessary.
- Victim statements: We recommend that you submit a victim statement IN WRITING whenever a judge will hear your case. They are sometimes required to read any statements you submit. Please check out ITRC Fact Sheet FS 111 - Victim Impact Statement regarding what to include in a Victim Statement.
As victims of identity theft, we are often left on our own, without a guide through the maze of reestablishing our good credit and name. The ITRC is here to help. Please contact us with your questions.