If someone took your credit or debit card for a joyride or opened a new account in your name, you may be wondering if you can file a claim against the person who stole your identity. The answer depends on whether you suffered damages, such as the cost of credit-monitoring service subscriptions, a ding to your credit score, attorney’s fees and court costs – and whether the identity thief was caught. That said, before suing for credit card fraud, first file a police report.
Although more than 15 million people were victimized in 2016 and the number grows each year, police rarely catch identity thieves because the crime often crosses state or even country borders. Filing a police report can help build a case for you and others.
Three Reasons to File a Police Report for Credit Card Fraud
In 2017, the Federal Trade Commission created the website IdentityTheft.gov to give victims access to an identity theft report meant to take the place of a police report, but creditcards.com recommends filing an actual police report for the following reasons:
- Credit bureaus won’t charge you to place a freeze on your credit report.
- You’ve been violated, and filing a police report will help you feel better psychologically.
- Information you give police may help them bust the thief or a credit card/identity theft ring, like the 30 people who were arrested in New York or the 11 people who were arrested in California in 2017. Until police catch the person (or people) who committed the crime, it’s impossible to sue for credit card fraud.
Do Police Actually Do Anything About Credit Card Fraud?
If officers don’t seem to care about your case, don’t be deterred. When an internet security professional’s credit card was stolen and maxed out in 2011, he and a U.S. Bank fraud department employee tracked down the thieves and gave the information they’d collected to the FBI. The FBI didn’t do anything with it, but the internet security professional wrote a book about his experience and told creditcards.com that, although law enforcement may not get involved after just one call, “100 or 1,000” calls about the same crime will prompt them to investigate.
How actively police pursue your identity thief depends on a number of factors, including the amount stolen, the amount of documentation you provide, the department’s caseload, and whether you know the person who used your card or opened an account in your name. If a friend or family member stole your identity, it will be easier to sue for credit card fraud – if you make the difficult decision to do so.
How to File the Lawsuit
If the police catch your identity thief and you file charges, gather your police report, bank statements and credit report, and contact a credit card fraud attorney. Most offer free consultations, during which they will review the facts of your case to determine whether your damages are worth pursuing in court.