Should I file a police report?
Someone Stole My Identity. Do I File a Police Report?
You just joined the ranks of identity theft victims, so you need to file a police report, right? Common sense screams “Yes,” but there are factors you might want to weight first. It’s always possible to call the police, but the resulting conversation with a non-emergency dispatcher may not yield the results you need.
The first question is whether you really need a police report. The answer is somewhat murky. It depends on where the evidence of theft has materialized. If you face unauthorized credit card charges, your lender could request an official police report, but it can be challenging to obtain one.
Get That Report
Government statistics show that most identity theft victims never report their experience to law enforcement. An estimated 7% of identity theft sufferers reported their incident to law enforcement in 2018, while 88% called their credit card company. These figures come from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), which crunches these numbers. But why the big gap between these statistics? It could be, in part, that obtaining a police document isn’t always easy.
In a second BJS survey analyzing 2017 financial fraud, individuals were more likely to report the theft to friends, banks, or credit card issuers (31%) than to the police (14%). One reason for the low reporting rate may be that not all ID thefts involve financial losses, but there’s also another reason for these low numbers in police reporting.
A squad car won’t come to your home for this crime. Look for the option to file identity theft claims online if your local police allow it. Some municipalities like Denver, Colorado do. If that option’s not available, go into the nearest police or sheriff’s office. Be prepared to push firmly to open a complaint.
One reason an officer might be reluctant to take identity-related complaints is that police agencies face limits in investigating this kind of theft. You may be sent to the thief’s jurisdiction instead—if you know the thief. And state or federal agencies may take over.
The local bank won’t talk to anyone who doesn’t possess a limited Power of Attorney (PoA) you’ve signed. A trained ID theft specialist armed with that PoA can access all the needed financial institutions.
The Value of a Police Report
Your first concern is the financial recovery of any funds stolen via credit card, bank account takeover or other means. The more significant the amount, the more likely the creditor will ask for a police account.
Law enforcement files come in handy when you try to erase all the damage done to your credit bureau files, too.
It also assists companies like IDShield that offer identity monitoring paired with an insurance policy covering any losses we can’t claw back for our members. The government-issued document substantiates a member’s claim, so we advise members to attempt filing a police report.
If you simply cannot obtain that report, go to IdentityTheft.gov and file a formal report there. The Federal Trade Commission receives it and states a document issued by the FTC carries serious weight as a government law enforcement document.
All these FTC complaints land in a searchable database that law agencies around the country can search to find more victims or look for patterns of abuse. Annually, all the reports end up in the agency’s annual Consumer Sentinel Network report.
Federal reports also indicate it takes a long time to recover from identity theft—sometimes weeks or even months and, on occasion, years. And with identity theft, it’s always about more than money. Many victims report suffering severe emotional damages, and these damages mount as time spent on recovery increases.
“More than half of financial fraud victims said they experienced socio-emotional problems as a consequence of the incident (53%),” the authors of the 2018 BJS report stated. “Financial fraud victims lost $1,090 on average and more than $3.2 billion in total.”
Numerous proactive measures reduce your risk of ID theft, but only if you implement these steps now, not when you’ve already been compromised.
- If you cannot open a file with the police, report it to the federal government at identitytheft.gov.
- Set up bank and other credit alerts, so you get a text or email when any large transfers occur.
- Keep sensitive documents under lock and key.
- Create a list of all credit accounts in your name and secure it, too.
- Shred all documents with your personal information before you trash them.
IDShield works 24 hours a day monitoring all your essential data and alerts you if we spot anything from a breach or leak—even data on the Dark Web (DJ link to David’s piece on Dark Web posting soon). With identity theft, speed matters, and we can issue alerts rapidly. Look into our full menu of services if you’d rather skip all the hassles of dealing with identity theft. Our staff of trained private investigators stands ready to help you recover fast.
IDShield is a product of Pre-Paid Legal Services, Inc. d/b/a LegalShield (“LegalShield”). LegalShield provides access to identity theft protection and restoration services. For complete terms, coverage, and conditions, please see an identity theft plan. All Licensed Private Investigators are licensed in the state of Oklahoma. This is meant to provide general information and is not intended to provide legal advice, render an opinion, or provide any specific recommendations.