Can You Go to Jail If Someone Steals Your Identity?

Can You Go to Jail If Someone Steals Your Identity?

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Can You Go to Jail If Someone Steals Your Identity?

The straightforward answer is yes; you can go to jail if someone steals your identity. However, the individual must first commit crimes under your name. In other words, you cannot go to jail simply because someone stole your identity, but you may go to jail if they commit certain crimes while assuming your identity and thus framing you.

It's also important to note that even if the individual commits crimes under your name, you may still be able to avoid jail if you can prove that you have nothing to do with the crime and that you're actually a victim of identity theft. Just because someone stole your identity doesn't make you guilty of their crimes if you can prove that you're the victim of identity theft.

However, this won't prevent law enforcement officials from treating you as a suspect under normal circumstances. In fact, they'll likely consider you a suspect until you can prove that you have nothing to do with the crime. For this reason, it's important to know what to do if you or your loved one is a victim of identity theft.

But before we discuss that, let's first look at some common ways identity theft can happen. The logic here is that you're better off preventing identity theft than actually proving that you're not responsible for the crimes committed by the individual who stole your identity.

Without further ado, let's dive into the details.

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  • Do You Know the Common Ways Identity Theft Can Happen?

    Identity theft can happen in any of the following ways:

    Vishing

    Vishing refers to the fraudulent practice of making phone calls to unsuspecting individuals and claiming to be representatives of reputable companies. The main purpose of vishing is to lure the recipient of the phone call to provide their personally identifying information or financial information such as credit card numbers. These kinds of calls usually appear to originate from a local company or organization, but in reality, they can be made from anywhere in the world.

    Most scammers use this tactic to target the elderly, who may not be familiar with these kinds of scams. In addition, statistics show that the elderly are more vulnerable to identity theft than younger individuals.

    Phishing

    Phishing is just like vishing, but the main difference is that the former involves the use of fake emails. The individual sending the email pretends to be a representative of a reputable organization. Like the phone call version of this kind of scam, the email's goal is to lure the reader into revealing their personal information. The scammer will then use this information to commit crimes under the victim's name.

    Smishing

    Smishing occurs when scammers target unsuspecting individuals through text messages. They'll send these messages posing as big companies in order to lure their victims into disclosing their personal information. For example, the text message might contain an incredible offer or discount for a particular product or service.

    Here's how this system works:

    Scammers closely monitor their victim's internet activities in order to predict their next behavior. For example, let's say you've been searching for affordable TVs online. You then decide to end the search and resume towards the end of the month because you expect a paycheck from your employer around that time. In that case, scammers will monitor your buying habits. During the process, they might discover that you're more likely to purchase products online around a particular time.

    They'll then use this information to send you a text message, claiming to be a big company offering irresistible discounts for the kind of product or service you've been looking for. Once you provide your credit card information when purchasing the product from the fake link, scammers will use this information to commit crimes under your name.

    Smishing has become quite popular in recent years because most people are more likely to trust text messages than phone calls. For example, if you're using an iPhone, a scam call will most likely appear as 'Scam Likely' on your phone's screen, meaning you'll likely not pick up the call.

    On the other hand, you may be interested in responding to a text message from a random phone number because you assume it's probably a friend who recently changed their phone number or anything along those lines.

    Fake Websites or Software

    Cybercriminals might also monitor the kind of websites you love visiting, where you do most of your online shopping or provide your personal or financial information. After collecting this data, they'll create fake websites that almost look identical to the ones you love visiting.

    These websites might even contain fake product listings with incredible deals. The goal of such websites is to have you provide your personal information, which, in return, will be used to commit crimes under your name, including accessing your banking information.

    Data Breaches

    Cybercriminals operate in different ways; they don't have to necessarily trick you into providing your personal information. Instead, they may forcefully obtain this information through activities such as hacking. For example, they might target large institutions such as schools to access their database and obtain information that could be useful to their criminal activities.

    Close Friends or Family Members

    Believe it or not, the people responsible for your pain might be right within your circle.

    Certain family members might steal your personal information and use it to commit crimes. According to a shocking report, at least 51% of identity theft victims confessed that they knew the people responsible for the crime. So before you even begin to search far and beyond, the answers could be right next to you.

  • Do You Know What to Do If Someone Steals Your Identity?

    Now that you know the different tactics scammers and cybercriminals use to steal their victim's identities, let's discuss what to do if you suspect you're a victim of identity theft.

    Report the Incident Immediately

    Contact law enforcement immediately if you discover you're a victim of identity theft. This won't necessarily clear your name if the criminal has already committed crimes under your identity. Instead, it's a great place to start in the journey to free yourself from your liability. In most cases, you may be required to file a report confirming that you're a victim of identity theft.

    This protects you in the event that the criminal commits a crime under your name. Rather than showing up in court without evidence claiming you didn't do it, these documents will speak on your behalf.

    Inform Your Bank

    Almost all cases of identity theft are financially motivated. The main reason criminals would want to steal your identity is to access your money or certain services they would otherwise be unable to access with their real identities.

    Have Your Fingerprints Taken

    If the individual who stole your identity has already been arrested, you may volunteer to have your fingerprints taken. Law enforcement officials will then compare your fingerprints with the alleged criminal's. Eventually, if you had nothing to do with the crime, they'll cross your name off the list of suspects.

    Check If You Have Any Warrants

    The last thing you want is to be pulled over for a minor traffic violation only to end up in court for a major crime you have no idea about. As ridiculous as it sounds, these cases happen all the time. You may have multiple arrest warrants you're unaware of when someone steals your identity and commits crimes under your name.

    The scariest part of it is that these warrants might span across states. Contact your local police enforcement to find out if there are any warrants under your name. While at it, explain to them that you're a victim of identity theft.

    It's also important to note that if you have warrants under your name, you may not be able to get rid of them entirely.

    For this reason, states like Maryland, Montana, New Mexico, Delaware, Oklahoma, Virginia, and Ohio have set up systems to allow victims of identity theft to obtain an Identity Theft Passport.

    What Is an Identity Theft Passport?

    Given that it might take a while to clear your name from criminal databases when you're a victim of identity theft, these states provide Identity Theft Passports to help victims prove that they're victims of the crime, not the perpetrators.

    Here's an example of a situation that might warrant the need for an Identity Theft Passport.

    Let's say someone steals your identity and then commits serious crimes under your name. Then, you get pulled over for a minor traffic violation, and the next thing you know, you're sitting at the back of a police cruiser on your way to the police station for further questioning.

    This would happen when the arresting officer runs your actual identity card through the police database and discovers that you have multiple arrest warrants. However, suppose you provided your Identity Theft Passport in such a situation. In that case, the police officer may not have any reason to arrest you for the crimes committed by the individual who stole your identity. That's one great way to escape an unnecessary night in jail.

    Check Your Driving Record

    If someone stole your identity, they'd likely want to use your driver's license to commit crimes. Lost identity cards are usually sold on the dark web to people who wish to restart their lives under new identities or commit crimes without tainting their actual records.

    Contact your local licensing office, request a copy of your driving record, and check if there's anything suspicious in the record. If there's a record you're not aware of, visit the licensing office with a copy of your clearance letter or Identity Theft Passport to clear your name.

    Obtain Your Credit Report

    One of the main reasons criminals would want to steal your identity is to obtain credit under your name. For this reason, you need to check your most recent credit report with the three major credit reporting agencies — Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax. If there's anything suspicious, report it to these credit bureaus immediately and provide proof that you're a victim of identity theft.

    Another thing you need to know is that if a potential employer refuses to hire you based on the information that showed up on your credit report, you have a right to access the report. This gives you a better understanding of the exact reason for the denial. You may be surprised to discover that the reason for denial has nothing to do with you; it may be a result of identity theft.

  • Contact an Experienced Attorney

    Let's face it; criminals are coming up with newer tactics every day in their attempts to steal people's private information. As a result, the exact steps you need to take to protect yourself will depend on the specifics of your case.

    If you're a victim of identity theft, contact Morgan & Morgan for a free, no-obligation case evaluation. We will review your case and advise you on the next steps to take. Your attorney can then work towards clearing your name and saving you from a lot of legal trouble, including the risk of serving time in jail for crimes you didn't commit.

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