Identity theft occurs when a party steals another person's Social Security number, credit card or other personal information and uses it to commit fraud, theft or other crimes. Many identity thieves use the Internet to obtain personal information. Others will search through garbage or break into houses to obtain personal information. Ultimately, the best protection against identity theft is prevention. Always keep your personal information in a safe and secure area. However, if your information has been used to commit fraud or other crimes, civil and/or criminal charges can be pursued.
Make sure you know the exact person who is stealing your identity. Pressing charges against the wrong person can cost you money and potentially lead to a counter-lawsuit.
File a police report. A police report should provide specific details of the identity theft. This is called an Identity Theft Report. This entitles you to certain legal rights when it is provided to the three major credit-reporting agencies or to companies where the thief used your information. You can file a police report at the police station or if an officer comes to your residence. If the theft occurred in a different state, then you should have your police report forwarded to the jurisdiction in which the crime arose.
Keep good track of records. Contact businesses or websites where your identity was used. Call the companies and ask for hard copies of the receipts. Originals are usually more credible. You will need these documents in case you have to go to trial. Also, if you end up retaining an attorney, he will need to review your records to determine whether or not you have a good case.
Draft a complaint. If you have legal experience in drafting a complaint, then you can do it yourself. Make sure all elements of the federal or state identity theft law are satisfied. For example, elements such as misappropriation, thef and use of stolen identity in a crime will need to be factually satisfied. A general complaint form can be found on most court websites. These forms will vary from jurisdiction depending on the rules in your jurisdiction. Also, you can visit the court in which you want to file and they will likely supply you with an example complaint.
File the complaint in court. You can file your complaint in state or federal court depending on what law you are suing under. The proper state court will vary, but the proper federal court will be your regional federal district court. The number of federal jurisdictions varies from state to state. You can find the federal jurisdiction you are looking for at uscourts.gov. Find the federal jurisdiction in which your claim arose and file in that federal district court.
Speak to an attorney. An attorney can provide you with competent advice. There are many free legal services such as Legal Aid and the Public Defenders Office. Whether you are looking to press civil or criminal charges, an attorney can direct you in the proper legal direction.