If you’re like most people, your experience with a court of law might be pretty limited. Other than the occasional jury duty summons, most citizens are happy about not having to spend much time dealing with the legal system. Unfortunately, that can lead to feelings of being overwhelmed or ignorant of the process if you’re a victim of identity theft.
The Identity Theft Resource Center offers free reference information on its website in the form of Fact Sheets, and the following information on how to navigate the court system if you’re the victim of identity theft can be found online here: “ITRC Fact Sheet 107: Requests Victims May Make of the Court.”
While regulations and assistance can vary widely from region to region, many district attorneys’ offices now offer victim’s assistance programs for citizens who’ve been affected by identity theft. This is always a good first place to start, just like reaching out to your bank’s or credit card company’s fraud departments if the identity theft involved your finances. These groups can get you started on the right track towards clearing your name. Any time you can get the information in writing, do so; that will help you be prepared as a plaintiff or witness when the time comes.
The court can also help you file for restitution, which is especially important if the thief is local or even a friend or relative. Restitution will cover a number of expenses related to your case, such as simple charges like postage for filing documents or fees associated with requesting copies of reports or statements. These little costs can add up when you’re handling your case, but restitution can even cover things like lost wages as you took time from work to handle your case. Be sure to keep detailed, verifiable accounts of anything you might claim as restitution, including phone calls, postage, mileage, and more. It will be up to a judge to determine if the charges are valid and warranted.
The legal system can also help you file for credit monitoring. While this is a service that a number of for-profit companies have started to offer to consumers, as a victim of identity theft you’re entitled to free copies of your reports for a set period of time in order to be able to clear your name. Your police report and other legal filings will be useful in requesting this free monitoring.
One of the most important documents you can request is a letter clearing your name. This court document should be stored in a safe location, and may be needed in the event the thief defaults on accounts, has committed insurance or disability fraud with your identity, has given your name to the police at the time of a crime and then failed to appear in court, or other situations that can have consequences for you. This written letter of clearance may be necessary for years to come following an identity breach, and you may wish to keep a copy of it in your wallet for situations such as a traffic stop that pulls up an outstanding warrant.
There are other services the court can provide for you depending on where you live and the laws in your state. Be sure to read over the Fact Sheet carefully and check out the other Fact Sheets that are listed in the form for other situations that may apply to your unique case. Remember that the courts can only help you if you take the initial steps to clear your name, so work with your local law enforcement and district attorney’s offices to receive all the support they can offer.