If you are a victim of identity theft, you already know, all too well, that it can impact your entire life, from reducing your credit score to having to spend your days fighting with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) or others who may institute collection efforts against you for debts that aren’t yours.
As difficult as all of that is, our clients are often surprised to learn that there are ways to receive damages for identity theft, both from criminal and civil proceedings.
Restitution from a Defendant’s Criminal Conviction
If a defendant is convicted of identity theft, the judge can order the defendant to pay restitution to the defendant’s victims as part of the defendant’s sentence. Before deciding on the amount you would receive, the court may order a hearing to determine the defendant’s ability to pay and to review your actual damages.
Once a court has ordered the defendant to pay restitution, you don’t have to take any further actions to collect the money if the defendant can pay the entire amount. Instead, the Department of Correction Services or a local probation office will disburse the funds directly to you.
If the defendant cannot pay the entire debt, you can file a petition with the state’s crime victims compensation fund for additional funds.
Damages in Civil Court
You can also sue a defendant in civil court for damages you’ve sustained due to identity theft. You may be entitled to compensatory damages, money to reimburse you for the actual damages you sustained, and punitive damages. These damages are intended to punish the defendant and deter them from committing future bad acts.
If you prevail at trial, the defendant should pay you the judgment upon notice and request. If they do not, there are still options you can take to get repayment, including:
- have a restraining order put on their bank account—preventing them from withdrawing any money
- file an Income Execution to garnish their salary
- file a lien against any real property they own
- have an Enforcement Officer seize personal property (such as a car or jewelry) in the amount owed
And, depending on the case, there are additional avenues that may push the defendant into paying you. For example, if the defendant holds a professional license, a licensing board may suspend or revoke their license until you’ve received the damages.
Whether the defendant will be tried in criminal court or you pursue a civil action, if you’ve been impacted by identity theft, contact a Consumer Rights attorney with a solid track record of representing clients who have been victims of identity theft—to help you repair your credit and obtain the compensation you deserve.