Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
If you could give one piece of advice to identity theft victims what would it be?
Do everything in writing. Follow-up all phone calls with a letter or email. The most common mistake victims make is getting a promise over the phone and not confirming it in writing.
Do I need a lawyer?
It depends. There are some good resources available for the victims of identity theft. The Federal Trade Commission has resources for victims, as does www.texaslawhelp.com. If you need additional help, I have written a step-by-step recovery guide for identity theft victims.
Buy “Recovering from Identity Theft: A Guide for Texas Victims” here for only $24.99.
If you have tried unsuccessfully to resolve your identity theft issues on your own, a lawyer may be able to help you.
Is there anything a lawyer cannot do for me?
Yes. A lawyer can write letters, negotiate with companies on your behalf, or represent you in court, but there area many things a victim must do personally. In order to recover from identity theft, you will need to make a police report. You should do that on your own, and be sure to get a document confirming that you made the report. Sometimes, this will be a copy of the police report. Sometimes, it is a letter from the police department confirming that a report was made.
If someone has committed crimes and given your identifying information to law enforcement to avoid getting caught, then you are a victim of criminal identity theft. You will need a stolen identity file. To get one, you must contact your local sheriff’s office to have your fingerprints and photograph taken and to fill out an affidavit. You must do this for yourself.
If someone has used your Social Security number, you will need to go in person to your local Social Security office to correct your Social Security Earnings Statement.
I’m afraid this will happen again. How do I protect myself?
Download a free tip sheet: Preventing Identity Theft. There are many easy things that you can do to protect yourself. Remember, though, you can do everything right and still become a victim.
I fell for a scam. How do I get my money back?
Generally, you don’t. There are certain exceptions. For example, if you paid a scammer with a credit card and discover the fraud in time to cancel the transaction, you may not lose the money. Or, if the person who scammed you is prosecuted for the crime, you can request restitution. Restitution is a kind of court order that tells a convicted criminal to pay money to a victim. Some victims are able to recoup some of their money through restitution. In reality, it is extremely rare for a victim of scams to get the money back. Once the money is gone, it is gone forever.
Can I sue a scammer or identity thief in civil court?
Theoretically, yes, but it is generally neither cost-effective or an efficient use of a victim’s time. People steal money because they need money. The bottom line is that a victim can expend a great deal of time and money suing a thief or scammer and get a judgment that is uncollectible. This means the victim is out more money and more time with nothing but a judgment to show for it. Most people choose not to do this.