So you’ve discovered that you’re a victim of identity theft, and you need to file a criminal complaint with law enforcement. Having a clear understanding of what your expectations should be in dealing with law enforcement, and what their role is and should be in mitigating the damage to your identity will give you the best chance of successfully cleaning up your good name.
The first thing a victim of identity theft should understand is that law enforcement probably won’t be able to catch your identity thief. It’s not that they’re not competent, or that they don’t care. As any regular reader of ITRC blogs is likely already aware, the problem is that identity theft is a very 21st century crime and our jurisdictional system was designed in the late 19th – early 20th century to effectively police crimes that existed at that time. Identity theft as we think of it today did not truly become a major issue until the last few years of the 20th century.
Many cases of identity theft transcend traditional jurisdictional boundaries. A police officer in Arizona may or may not have the time and resources, let alone the authority, to help catch an identity thief in Florida. While there
are some exceptions to this general trend (as when the victim and the thief live in the same area, or the thief is known to the victim), generally the victim’s focus should be on cleaning up the damage and preventing future incidence of fraud, and not on catching the bad guy. Deliver what information you have to the police when you file your report, and let them determine the likelihood of bringing the thief to justice.
The good news is you don’t need to catch the thief to mitigate the damage from past identity theft, and protect your identity from future harm. The principle value of contacting the police for identity theft is simply to get the incident report. The existence of a police report gives your status as victim credibility. In order to mitigate the damage done from identity theft you may need to contact creditors, collection agencies, government offices, or anyone else who may have been affected by the illegal use of your personally identifying information.
The ability to provide a complaint made to law enforcement shows that you’re not just someone trying to cleverly skate on paying a bill. Having a police report is also a critical component to invoking your protections under federal laws such as FACTA, FCRA, and FDCPA. Understanding that in most cases of identity theft the report itself is a greater asset in your fight to restore your good name than seeing the criminal brought to justice is paramount when you seek the assistance of law enforcement.
“Helping Law Enforcement Help You” was written by Matt Davis. Matt is a Victim Advisor at the Identity Theft Resource Center. We welcome you to post/reprint the above article, as written, giving credit to and linking back to the original article.