March 24, 2016 Identity theft statutes in Washington provide that “No person may knowingly obtain, possess, use, or transfer a means of identification or financial information of another person, living or dead, with the intent to commit, or to aid or abet, any crime.” Usually, the crime committed, aided, or abetted involves financial fraud subsequent to the illicit gain of another’s identity. Victims of identity theft and attendant fraudulent financial crimes might spend years along with thousands of dollars to attempt to repair the damage to credit and reputation associated with the crime. Initial action The first step in recovery from identity theft is recognizing the crime. Signs of possible identity theft include unexplained withdrawals from bank accounts, missing bills from credit cards or other accounts, denied use of credit cards or checks by merchants, unrecognized charges on existing accounts, bills from unrecognized accounts and unrecognized claims by debt collectors. Once you suspect identity theft, immediately place a fraud alert with one of the three credit reporting bureaus: Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax. A fraud alert will help prevent those who fraudulently use your information from opening credit accounts under your name and at your expense. Follow up by contacting the other two bureaus and advising them of the breach. Also, put a hold on any and all accounts you suspect might be compromised and request new cards so that no further loss can result. Placing a freeze on credit ratings will also help prevent any parties from obtaining your credit report and using it for financial gain. Report the crimes to police and get a police report. In some cases, actions taken such as placing a credit freeze will either be free of charge or reduced to a nominal fee if you show a police report. Contact the Federal Trade Commission to obtain an Identity Theft Affidavit. Combine this completed document with a police report to create an Identity Theft Report and submit it according to instructions on the government website. Contact a representative in the fraud department at each business with which a crime is associated. Request information on how to establish the fraudulent nature of the charges and follow up with the directives. Litigation might be required to successfully dispute such charges. Prevention Many commercial services are offered to protect you by making identity theft more difficult to perpetrate. The initial cost might justify the prevention of subsequent breaches in the security of your financial information. Vigilant monitoring of credit reports can catch identity theft in the early stages and reduce the amount of damage caused. Immediately recognize and dispute any unauthorized charges you find on your credit report or any of your accounts. Credit reporting agencies can make mistakes, and it is up to the individual consumer to correct them. Get Legal Help If you suspect you are the victim of identity theft, protect your employment, finances, and reputation. Learn your rights. Contact the attorneys at The Nahajski Firm for a free and confidential initial consultation. If an offender is identified, you might have the option of suing them in civil court for damages.