There are many different kinds of identity theft, all of which can have lasting effects for the victims. While financial identity theft can cause problems for making large purchases or even getting a job later, and medical identity theft can even impact the health care you receive, one type of identity theft can land you in jail if it’s not resolved.

Criminal identity theft occurs when someone uses your name and information at the time of an incident with law enforcement. It could be anything from a serious crime to a minor traffic stop, but the end result is that your name and data are tied to an open police matter.

If the crime actually required the suspect to be placed under arrest and taken to the police station for booking, there will be in-depth documentation, fingerprints, photographs, and other proof that will later show that you were not the person who was arrested.

But in the case of a traffic stop, it’s a little harder to prove your innocence. An identity thief has most likely gotten a copy of your driver’s license and handed it over to the police, claiming to be you. The ticket is issued, which the thief has no intention of paying. Once the deadline for payment passes, it typically reverts to a bench warrant for your arrest.

Since most law enforcement agencies are far too busy with serious crimes to go chasing down unpaid traffic tickets, the warrant will often sit quietly until the next time your name comes up on the computer. It might be a traffic stop you actually were involved in, a background check for a new job, a check of your credit when buying a car or renting property, or other similar instance.

In any event, the warrant reappears and you have some explaining to do.

If you have reason to believe your identity has been compromised, do not wait for a problem to occur before you take action. The very first step—whether it’s losing your driver’s license or knowing of a full-fledged identity theft—is to file a police report with your local jurisdiction. It might not result in nabbing the thief, but it will serve as official proof that your identity has fallen into someone else’s hands. Without this police report, you only have your word to stand on if your identity is used in a crime.

Once you have reason to believe there is already a warrant for your arrest or your name has been used this way, contact the arresting agency and explain the situation. Be prepared to provide copies of the police report you filed previously. In some cases, you may have to file a new police report for the impersonation incident; your original police report was simply for the theft of your identity, but this new one will be for the additional crime of using your identity.

You may also need to provide fingerprints or photographs that will be compared to the set of prints taken when the thief was booked if the crime was severe enough to require it.

Anyone can be a victim of identity theft, anyone can use our services, and anyone can help us help others. If you found this information useful, please consider donating to the Identity Theft Resource Center to help us keep our services free to the public.

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