White-collar crime is not victimless crime; victims of identity theft suffer significant losses and hardships. Advances in technology and Internet commerce are helping safeguard our private information but thieves and hackers are learning advanced methods to steal identities. Damage suffered by identity theft victims can be extensive and lead to long-term problems. Unfortunately, most people will not know their identity is stolen until after damage is done. The identify thief may have obtained a drivers license, insurance, bank accounts, credit cards and bought a new car, all in your name. What happens when the identity thief does not pay the bills that are in your name and affect your credit? What happens with the identity thief is arrested for DUI with their license in your name? What happens when a police officer comes to your house and arrests you for a crime you did not commit?
We say, “It won’t happen to me, I’m safe and cautious with my personal information.”
Imagine you never use credit or debit cards online or over the phone; you shred all mail with your personal information and pick up your mail the minute the post office delivers it to your home. Identity thieves will get your information if they want it. Whether they hack into systems, where your private information is kept or they buy illegal lists of identities and private information on the black market, there is little anyone can do to stop a thief. Another target for identity theft may be a company, such as an insurance provider, that failed to adequately secure your information from thieves. On a local scale, the family law firm down the street may have client files, full of private information, and an unscrupulous night cleaning crew who hit the identity theft jackpot. In many cases, the thieves simply sell your identity on the black market, to domestic and foreign buyers.
Identity theft can be a disaster for victims, left with a damaged life and reputation.
Cancelling and ordering new credit cards is one thing. Proving you did not commit a hit and run collision causing death is quite another. An identity thief could feasibly obtain all necessary information to register a stolen vehicle in your name and even insure it with your driver’s license number. If the thief causes a collision while pretending to be you, they can simply abandon the assumed identity, move along to the next victim, and become them. Along the way, your credit could be ruined and the work it takes to restore your credit rating is extensive. Tax identity theft is also on the rise. Thieves use tax filing websites to file phony returns in your name, have tax refunds deposited into phony accounts they open in your name, and when you file your actual tax return the IRS rejects your return, and audits everything tied to your name and social security number.
There are state and federal criminal and civil penalties for thieves, and remedies for victims.
In Illinois, a person commits identity theft, “uses any personal identifying information or personal identification document of another person to fraudulently obtain credit, money, goods, services, or other property.[i]” Illinois law classifies identity theft as a felony with increasing severity and penalties as the value of the theft of goods or services increases:
- Identity theft of credit, money, goods, services, or other property not exceeding $300 in value is a Class 4 felony.
- Identity theft of credit, money, goods, services, or other property exceeding $300 and not exceeding $2,000 in value is a Class 3 felony.
- Identity theft of credit, money, goods, services, or other property exceeding $2,000 and not exceeding $10,000 in value is a Class 2 felony.
- Identity theft of credit, money, goods, services, or other property exceeding $10,000 and not exceeding $100,000 in value is a Class 1 felony.
Under federal law, possession and transfer of private information to create or use a false identity is punishable by fines and prison terms of not more than five to 30 years.[ii]
Individual victims of identity theft may have a cause of action and file a lawsuit against the identity thieves, if they catch them and can collect damages if the thief is caught and illegally obtained assets are available for sale and recovery by a victim. A much more likely scenario is a lawsuit against a company who was negligent with your information and the identity theft occurred as a result of that negligence. The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) is a source of federal law providing remedies for consumer victims of identity theft.[iii] Victims can recover money for violations of the FCRA when your information was mishandled, and recovery can include actual damages, statutory damages and attorney’s fees.
To learn more about the FCRA and its enforcement, read our blog article, The Fair Credit Reporting Act, responsibilities and remedies for consumer reporting violations.
Cleaning up the damage: What else we can do to remedy your negative effects
If you are an identity theft victim, the attorneys at the Zamparo Law Group can assist and advise you about the process of contacting all the contacts on your accounts with banks, credit agencies, driver’s license facilities, the Social Security office, and with making proper reports of identity theft crime to the proper state and federal agencies. The paperwork involved can be extensive and there may be a specific order in the process of restoring your proper identity and canceling your bogus version of you.
The Zamparo Law Group can help consumers fight identity theft and companies who fail to safeguard your private information. We fight and win in court, individually and in class action lawsuits.
The Zamparo Law Group, P.C. is a consumer protection law and litigation firm, representing consumer plaintiffs. Zamparo Law Group in the northwest suburbs of Chicago sues and wins against the companies who refuse to follow the law.
To learn more about consumer protection law and the Zamparo Law Group, please visit the firm’s website. You may also ask for a free case review. The Zamparo Law Group is connected on social media, please follow us and share our resources we share on our Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn pages. You may call the Zamparo Law Group with any questions by dialing (224) 875-3202.
Image Source: Identity theft complaints on the rise in Wisconsin http://bit.ly/1L7ksKd