You need to file a Police report. The family member will, however, most likely be charged and you may get restitution. Otherwise, consult a Civil Attorney that can file a lawsuit. Be careful, however, as your family member may be Judgment Proof.
This information is a general answer and is not specific to any particular case.
Carin Manders Constantine, Esq.
As my colleague suggests, w.While you may file a civil claim for damages against the identity thief, collecting on a judgment may be an entirely different story. You should contact a local attorney to explore your legal rights and available remedies.
In addition to filing the a report with your police department, also complete an identity theft affidavit. You may obtain an identity theft affidavit at http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/resources/forms/affidavit.pdf.
For more information on steps you may take to protect your rights, visit http://www.ohioconsumerhelp.com/sub/id-theft.jsp.
Additionally, you should check your consumer credit reports to see if this false information is appearing. Often when identity thieves strike, they open fraudulent accounts in their victim’s name. Inaccurate information can affect your access to favorable credit terms, employment, and even insurance. You may obtain a free copy of your credit reports from the three national credit bureaus at www.annualcreditreport.com once per year.
If anything is appearing on your report(s) that is not attributable to you, I would encourage you to seek the assistance of an attorney familiar with the federal law applicable to credit reporting (the Fair Credit Reporting Act, or FCRA). For an attorney in your area, visit http://naca.net/find-attorney. Notably, Steve Fahlgren happens to be in your state, and is excellent in this area of the law.
This is the best first step in protecting your legal rights, and understanding the protections available to you under state and federal law. Be sure to ask about the benefits and drawbacks of placing a fraud alert on your consumer file to protect against further harm to you and your good name.
Good luck to you!!
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I agree with Carin and would state further that not only is contacting the police a good idea; if you are to reverse any of the charges that were fraudulently made, the creditors will likely insist upon a police report just to confirm what happened. So calling the police is good for those 2 reasons.
As far as the type of attorney, I would think that any general litigation type of attorney with some commercial litigation experience would be helpful. However, if you are going after an "addict" then it stands to reason that your best case scenario would be to obtain a "paper judgment" worth just that....the paper that it's written on. Good luck.
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I am sorry to hear of your troubles. As a previous victim of identity theft, I have some idea what you are going through at this time. I have also been involved in hundreds of hours of litigation with the credit bureaus and obtained a multimillion dollar jury verdict against Equiifax so I have considerable experience with this problem. See http://www.fortheconsumer.com/in-the-news.htm
You should file a police report if you have not done so already. In my experience, I have not seen a high priority to prosecute identity thieves. If there is a prosecution, the Court has authority to issue orders to correct public records. See Section 817.568(9)(b), Fla. Stat.
You should review your credit reports ASAP. It would probably be a good idea to review your credit report prepared by Equifax, Trans Union, Experian and Innovis. You can get the first three so for free once a year by calling 877-322-8228. It is a lot simpler and quicker than jumping through all the hoops on the internet and you do not risk mistakenly agreeing to waive your right to a jury trial by arbitration. Please be sure to stay on the line until you have ordered all three reports. You can order your free copy of your Innovis report by calling 1-800-540-2505.
If there are errors on your credit report, you should consider disputing with the credit bureaus who claim you owe a debt. You should be as detailed as possible. Hopefully, that will take care of the problem or at least help. Because you have advised that your case involves identity theft, you should obtain a police report and also complete a fraud affidavit from the FTC to submit to the credit bureaus along with your dispute. I strongly recommend that documents be sent to the credit bureaus rather than calling in your dispute or disputing online. In my experience, the credit bureaus take document disputes a little more seriously. If you do not dispute with the credit bureaus, it makes a case against the credit bureaus much more difficult. If you contact my office via email, I can provide a free instructional letter that helps you draft a dispute to the credit bureaus.
You should request that the credit bureaus give you an EXTENDED fraud alert on your credit reports.
If there are errors on your credit report, you should also dispute with the furnishers who claim you owe a debt. If you contact my office via email, I can provide a free debt validation letter. In your disputes, as set forth in my instructional letter, you should be as detailed as possible.
If the credit bureau, creditor or debt collector writes back requesting more information, you should provide that to them even if it seems to be a stalling tactic or nonsense. If you do not, they will take the position in any litigation that you failed to mitigate your damages. Most judges and juries are going to expect you to use your best efforts to solve the problem.
If after you dispute to the creditors and the credit bureaus, the debt collectors continue to try to collect the identity theft debt by sending you dunning letters or by placing or leaving items on your credit report, then you probably have a claim under Florida's Consumer Collection Practices Act and/or the Fair Credit Reporting Act.
Please act quickly because there is a two year statute of limitations under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, although there is an argument now that it can be longer if you did not learn of the violation for some time. Your failure to act quickly could result in a loss of valuable rights. There is only a one year statute of limitations under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. I cannot give you any advice as to when the statute of limitations starts running unless and until I am retained because sometimes it is not clear.
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