Identity theft is one of the most common types of fraud committed in the United States. More than 15 million American residents have their identities stolen every year, costing the country—at either the state or federal level—up to $50 billion annually. There are some things that a person can do to combat identity theft, or to deal with it once it occurs. The first step to overcoming identity theft is to file a police report. To aid with this, a victim may also need to fill out a Federal Trade Commission Identity Theft Affidavit. If the identity theft has occurred through another government agency, such as via the theft of sensitive mail delivered by the United States Postal Service, a victim may also need to fill out an identity theft report with the USPS.
One particularly devastating type of identity theft is known as criminal identity theft, in which a person is held accountable for a crime that he or she did not commit because the perpetrator used a stolen identity at the time of arrest. This can happen more easily than you think—all a criminal needs to do is to give a law enforcement officer a stolen driver’s license or Social Security when he or she is detained on suspicion of a crime. While it may seem simple to rectify this situation of mistaken identity, once the process has begun, it can be very difficult to slow or change it.
Because this information is then recorded in both the state and federal criminal records databases, it can have long lasting effects that are seemingly irreversible. The scariest part of criminal identity theft is that there is little one can do to address it without the assistance of an experienced attorney. Even after a person has proved his innocence by submitting fingerprints or photographic proof, he or she may still face charges or even spend unnecessary time in jail because this information is on record. His or her name may trigger an alarm when buying gas at a gas station, or if pulled over for speeding. Red tape in the law enforcement system requires officers to arrest the individual before they are able to access the proper identifying information.
If you have been accused of a crime that you did not commit—and for which you suspect you may be a victim of criminal identity theft—the most important step is to seek legal counsel. Do not go through it alone. Contact an experienced Santa Clara County criminal defense attorney today.