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Identity Theft Law

Identity theft can cost victims time, money, and peace of mind. Anyone can become a target of a scam or data breach.

Most identity thieves steal personal information over the internet. They can also get personal data from trash cans and other unsecured locations. This personal information allows thieves to access bank accounts, sensitive emails, and other private data.

FindLaw's Identity Theft section explains how you can boost your identity protection. You can also learn what to do if someone steals your identity. Federal consumer protection law offers ways to recover your identity and money.

What Is Identity Theft?

Identity theft is a crime in which a thief uses a person's personal information to commit fraud or other crimes.

Some examples of personal information that thieves can use include:

  • Social Security numbers (SSNs)
  • Credit card numbers and verification details
  • Driver's license numbers
  • Medical records
  • Online account emails, usernames, and passwords
  • Bank account numbers
  • Names and birth dates
  • Physical addresses

Once a thief has your personal information, they can pretend to be you. Impersonation can be as simple as using your password to log into accounts only you should access.

How Can Identity Thieves Access My Information?

In other cases, your actions don't affect your privacy or identity theft risk. Large companies and institutions compile huge electronic databases of personal profiles. Such databases often store your financial information and more. If hackers gain entry to them, it's easy to steal thousands of consumers' data at once. That's why federal data laws mandate strong security for these databases.

Identity theft can also begin in less tech-savvy ways. Thieves can learn your personal information by stealing your phone or wallet. They might even go dumpster diving for discarded documents or steal mail from your mailbox. Simply looking over your shoulder at an ATM, a theif can take your money.

How Do Identity Thieves Use Information for Crime?

Depending on the personal information they find, thieves can exploit it by:

  • Charging items to your credit card
  • Opening a new credit card in your name to buy items
  • Renting a house or property in your name
  • Applying for a car loan
  • Getting a job while pretending to have your credentials
  • Opening a bank account in your name
  • Opening a new account for utility services
  • Taking the government benefits entitled to you
  • Filing fake tax returns with the IRS

These thieves can even give your information to the police when they commit an unrelated crime. Because thieves can cause such severe damage so quickly, catching the early signs of identity theft is vital.

How Do I Get Identity Theft Protection?

You can take many steps to lower your risk of identity theft, such as:

  • Using a credit card with fraud protection instead of your debit card when shopping online and in stores
  • Securely storing paper records like Social Security cards, passports, bills, bank statements, and tax returns
  • Shredding documents before recycling them
  • Collecting your mail promptly after the mail carrier delivers it or installing a lockable security mailbox
  • Using strong, unique passwords and multi-factor authentication for all online accounts
  • Monitoring your credit file, including getting a copy of your free credit report on

You can't guarantee that you'll never suffer identity theft. Many institutions collect your information during the course of daily life. One hack could expose everything a thief needs to steal your identity.

How Can an Identity Theft Attorney Help?

consumer protection lawyer can help you recover from identity theft as wholly as possible. Getting legal guidance can ease the hardships of restoring your reputation and regaining money.

Identity theft can significantly damage a person's credit history and reputation. Fortunately, several resources can help you recover from identity theft and prevent it in the future.

One of these resources is an attorney with experience in identity theft. These attorneys understand the rights and remedies available to identity theft victims under state and federal laws.

How Do I Create a Fraud Recovery Plan?

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recommends visiting its resource,, to start recovering from identity fraud. Recovering as a victim of identity theft can be challenging and time-consuming.

Identity theft report and recovery often involve the following steps:

  • Filing a police report with local law enforcement
  • Contacting one of the major credit bureaus (Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax share fraud reports)
  • Contacting the fraud departments of financial institutions like your credit card companies

An identity theft attorney has experience communicating with these entities. Having an attorney will also prevent them from contacting you directly, especially for debts you don't owe.

Learn About Identity Theft

You Don’t Have To Solve This on Your Own – Get a Lawyer’s Help

Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.

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