Ask anyone who’s ever been robbed of their identity, and they’ll tell you that it typically takes years to recover from such a violation. This extremely personal crime goes far beyond using someone else’s name to make a hefty purchase at a department store. In addition to credit card charges, bank account withdrawals, social security tampering and a number of other ways in which your life would be impacted, unrelated crimes can also be committed – in your name – for which you may be held responsible.
It’s pretty safe to assume that when you hear the phrase “identity theft, " you’ll know immediately what’s being discussed. Not many folks, however, are aware that criminal identity theft takes this type of crime a step beyond simply racking up charges on someone else’s credit cards.
In fact, criminal identity theft is the term used when an individual poses as someone else when confronted by a law enforcement officer. In other words, if someone – who has taken on your identity – is arrested or approached in any way by a law enforcement official and they offer some form of ID that identifies them by your name, then the line has been crossed from identity theft to criminal identity theft.
By obtaining vital documents, such as a driver’s license, social security card and other legal documents in your name, they can effectively “become" you. In some cases, these individuals build a life for themselves in some other part of the world and, unless some red flag goes up on your end, you might never know it until something drastic takes places, such as an arrest warrant that’s issued in your name.
Obtaining a job, buying a home, taking out a loan and every other area that you can think of will be impacted if such an event takes place. In most cases, it takes a specific set of circumstances that brings about the knowledge that criminal identity theft has been committed. Some examples of this would be the discovery that there’s a criminal record in your name that renders you ineligible for a particular job, the denial of a loan or application for a mortgage as the result of unsatisfied debts that you didn’t incur or an arrest as the result of an outstanding warrant in your name when you’re simply stopped for a routine traffic violation or safety belt check.
The real tragedy here is that the burden of proof is on the victim when it comes time to clear up these issues, which can take years in the legal system and cost thousands of dollars as the judicial clock continues to count down the minutes until you’re able to prove that you are, in fact, who you claim to be and did not commit the crimes of which you’ve been accused. This particular type of criminal activity occurs more often than you might imagine and has devastated the lives of countless innocent people.
If you should be the target of criminal identity theft, here are just a few of the things that you can do in order to begin the process of clearing your name within the legal system:
- Report the misidentification to your local law enforcement agency
- File an official impersonation report
- Gain knowledge of the particular laws within your state regarding criminal identity theft and your rights as a victim
- Insist that the law enforcement agency who takes the impersonation report files a copy with the authorities in the state or county where the perpetrator resides
- Contact the Motor Vehicle Department, in the event that your license has been violated
- Check to see if your state has any victims’ rights groups or other advocates who can help you to win your case
- Hire an attorney that has experience with criminal identity theft
Don’t let someone ruin your good name – take the necessary steps to protect your documents and other means of identification. Otherwise, there may be an imposter out there who will be laughing all the way to the jail cell – yours.
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About the Author: Nikki Greene is dedicated to helping you become better informed when it comes to preventing identity theft. Sign up for her "Preventing Identity Theft Newsletter" and keep up with the latest trends, identity theft in the news, and how you can safeguard your identity: http://www.preventing-identity-theft.com/