ITRC Fact Sheet 107
Requests Victims May Make of the Court
In an attempt to make you whole again: legally and financially
This guide covers:
- Victim Assistance Programs
- Credit Report Monitoring
- Identity Monitoring
- Written Letter of Clearance
- Other Items to Consider Requesting
Most identity theft cases do not result in the perpetrator being arrested and convicted. In many ways, these cases are in uncharted territory. Oftentimes, there is no one to turn to, no one to ask about procedures or to help guide you through the legal maze. It is important to communicate with the district attorney assigned to your case.
Along with the district attorney, you need to put a face to this crime, to show it in living color. It is your responsibility to educate the judge about your needs and how this crime affected your life, from the time of discovery to that day in court.
Most of these requests (listed below) will be made during the Sentencing Phase of your case. Please note: a judge may or may not listen. The judge has the final word. However, if you don’t try, you’ll never know if the judge agrees with you.
You might also refer to our ITRC Fact Sheet FS 106 - Organizing Your Identity Theft Case.
Many District Attorney Offices have a victim assistance program. Ask to speak to a victim assistance counselor to help you prepare yourself for the various stages of the prosecution, hearings, requests for restitution, probation interviews, hearings, etc. Each court and jurisdiction is different and often the district attorney doesn’t have time to help you. You can also read through the basic process in ITRC Fact Sheet FS 109 - The Court Experience.
Make sure that you get all the pamphlets and procedures in writing so that you understand what is expected of you as a victim and witness. Keep a very detailed file of the information since this process may go on for many months.
Restitution is paid to the victim(s) when the court orders the defendant to pay a certain amount of money to his or her victims to reimburse them for their losses. While some judges are reluctant to order restitution, they are required to listen to your request and will usually consider reasonable and unavoidable costs.
We suggest that you write a letter asking for restitution. You may use ITRC Fact Sheet FS 111 - Victim Impact Statements.
- What happened to you as a victim; a summary of the case.
- The impact financially, emotionally and physically.
- The actual losses- out-of-pocket expenses, hourly wages lost, doctor and therapy bills, etc. You may want to use ITRC Fact Sheet FS 106 as a guide for this section.
In all cases, you must keep receipts of legitimate costs. You should also keep a detailed log of all time spent on clearing your name (time spent, what you were working on, who you called, etc.). You should also try to estimate projected future costs, anticipating reasonable expenses you will incur in clearing your case.
We also recommend that you look at our ITRC Fact Sheet FS 109 - The Court Experience and ITRC Fact Sheet FS 111 - Victim Impact Statements to see examples of how to add requests to your statement. Do not present a long laundry list to the judge. Be selective in what you request and be brief in your presentation. Remember, be respectful of the judge’s time and be courteous.
The judge has the discretion to determine which, if any, items will be considered for restitution. However here are some suggested items for inclusion:
- Postage- to mail letters pertaining to your case to credit bureaus, credit card companies, banks, merchants, loan officers, etc. This really adds up, since many the letters are mailed “return receipt requested.”
- Phone calls – track who you talked with and why. Make a photocopy of your phone bill and keep that in a file.
- Document photocopying
- Fingerprinting fees
- Costs incurred to replace identifying documents – for instance, to the Department of Motor Vehicles for a new driver’s license.
- Legal and private investigator fees – only if you can prove that you had no choice in your attempt to clear your name
- Business supplies – be careful to limit these costs to items used exclusively in your identity theft case. Your new computer will not impress the judge nor will any supplies that can be used for other activities.
- Time lost. This is a touchy category for many judges. However, if you can clearly show loss they might consider it. Your log will come in handy here. Include time loss from work to clear your name and time you needed to spend in court as a witness.
- Doctor’s bills and costs for prescription incurred only because of this crime.
- Psychological counseling - In many cases, the imposters truly do not understand how they harm you, your children, and others. After all, they were only “borrowing” your identity. This crime has significant impact upon victims, and as a victim, you should not be afraid to request professional counseling.
- Lost application fees if turned down for loans or credit because of this crime.
- The future cost of credit monitoring services
For a period of time after the initial victimization, you are entitled to get your credit reports without cost to clean up the credit mess and monitor the new inquiries. That varies depending on state laws and credit reporting agency policies. After that time, be sure to continue to keep an eye on your reports, checking them once every few months.
Identity theft criminals tend to be repeat offenders. Victims often say that while their perpetrators got off with 3 years of probation, they are servicing a life sentence. It is true that victims live with the fact that the imposter may reuse the information at any time. They might also sell it repeatedly for others to use.
So, the question arises, how do you monitor your credit reports as effectively as possible? Some people prefer to subscribe to a Credit Monitoring Service. There are several currently in the United States. We recommend the ANNUAL CREDIT REPORT PROGRAM - a free program provided by federal law. If you call 877-322-8228, you can order one credit report from each of the three bureaus every 12 months. By staggering your requests you can keep an eye on your credit for FREE.
In many states, victims may freeze their credit reports to prevent unwanted credit issuers from viewing them. For more information on this process, please see our ITRC Fact Sheet FS 124 - Credit Freeze and Fraud Alerts. Also, please check our State Resources to see if your state has laws regarding fraud and credit freezes.
These new services go beyond traditional credit monitoring by including additional areas where fraudulent activity may be indicated. In some cases, these may be more proactive in alerting you to fraudulent activity in real time. Each service is slightly different. Additional areas may include:
- monitoring for items such as address changes
- identifying unusual personal activity (such as applying for several lines of credit with auto dealers in the same week)
- scanning the Internet for exposed account information
- screening for other items that may indicate something is awry.
Some companies calculate identity risk by looking for any suspicious or unusual relationships among billions of basic identity elements. Others include credit monitoring and some of the additional items mentioned above. Look for a service that notifies you quickly of any developing problem.
If the imposter has used your name as an alias while committing a crime or if you have difficulties proving you are you -- one of the tools you can request from the courts is a “Letter of Clearance”. It is known by various names so ask the district attorney or sheriff in your area for the precise title. Essentially, this is an official document from the court establishing your that you were a victim of identity theft.
You will need to carry this form with you for years to come so make numerous copies of it. We also suggest you give a copy of it to a family member or close friend in the event you misplace the copy you carry on your person and you need it in an emergency. This document will save you countless embarrassing moments and potential visits to the local jail.
If you are a victim of this type of “criminal identity theft,” please read ITRC Fact Sheet FS 110.
- That all documents containing your personal data currently in the possession of the imposter shall be returned to you or that you receive written notice from the court that either the court or law enforcement has possession of them and that they were properly destroyed. You have the right to make sure the imposter does not just throw them in the trash, making them available for dumpster divers to take.
- Anti-theft counseling or psychological counseling– we know that ID thieves are often repeat offenders. Once they learn how easy it is to steal an identity, the temptation may be more than they can fight. Other circumstances in their lives may lead them to committing identity theft and can benefit from counseling.
- Regular review hearings/probation – ITRC believes this is one of the most important tools we have. Most often ID thieves just receive probation. With probation officers handling an abundance of cases, Review Hearings become a way for the courts to regularly check in on the probation and make sure the imposter is following all court mandates.
- We recommend you request that a review hearing occur 6 months after sentencing.
- That the imposter may never, from this day forth, have any personal information about you in their possession—electronically or on paper.
- That the imposter must give written letter to anyone that they may be collecting personal data from that he/she is a convicted felon of (penal code—i.e., false personation). This letter serves as warning to potential victims. If they choose to ignore it, at least you have made sure that they were warned.