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Do the Police investigate Identity Theft?

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  • 8 min read
Two police officers looking at a mobile phone

We account for criminals trying to steal our money and valuables, but what about someone stealing your name or face? Your personally identifiable information (PII), like your full name, ID proofs, email address, or anything that can be tied back to you as a person or a legal entity, can be stolen or impersonated by criminals for malicious gains.

Using your PII, criminals or sometimes known people can take out loans in your name, apply for credit cards, or impersonate your social media profiles or email addresses to scam others. Victims of identity theft can suffer financial losses, damage to their reputation and mental stress. The Identity Theft Resource Centre (ITRC) published a report showing that 16% of ITCR ID theft victims reported thoughts of suicide.

Considering the impact of identity theft, you might wonder if the police investigate identity theft. If yes, how do you file a report? And what else can be done to curb the damage?

Also read: Are there scams on Linkedin?


Signs of stolen identity

Here are some signs that signify that scammers have stolen your identity:

Unauthorised financial transactions

If you are notified of transactions you did not authorise, like loan sanctions, credit card issues, money transfers and so on, this could indicate that someone has access to your crucial information.

Identity thieves could access your official accounts to steal money or create new accounts in your name and rack up a debt tied to you.


Suspicious social media interactions

A few of your friends may tell you they have received suspicious messages and links from your account or about a profile with your details, trying to contact them through social media. This could be an account takeover, where they hack into your official account or an impersonated account, where they create an account with your photos, name and details. Attackers could use this tactic to scam people you know by posing as you.

The same tactic could be used for email addresses and phone numbers. With the increased use of deep-fake technology, attackers could even impersonate your voice to perform a voice-phishing or vishing attack.


Stolen wallet, phone or documents

If key items like your phone, wallet or passport were lost or stolen, or if your legal documents like rent agreements or medical records are missing, it could be the first step to identity theft, resulting in fraudulent activities at your expense.

A hand removing a card from a wallet.

Missing Mail

Attackers or criminals could steal your physical mail to get their hands on crucial information and documents like your bills and receipts.

They could even change your billing address to divert your mail to their location.


Unidentified criminal charges

In extreme cases, a criminal could use your social security number or other government ID proofs to make it look like you’re the one who is being legally charged with the criminal offence. This could lead to an arrest warrant issued against you.

Also read: What is Deepfake? Everything you need to know


Do the Police investigate Identity Theft?

You can file a report for identity theft, but whether or not the police will actively investigate the crime depends on its severity, the extent of damage, the evidence available and whether the crime falls in their jurisdiction. However, filing a report can help dispute fraudulent transactions at other institutes.

  • The severity of the crime – If the crime involves a heavy financial loss, or if the criminal has used your identity to pin criminal charges and an arrest warrant to your name, if the identity theft is an ongoing operation that targets a large number of people, or the criminal has used identity theft to cause damage to state funds, it will actively be investigated by the police.
  • Evidence available – If you can gather enough evidence to help the police investigate the theft, it will fast-track the process. Evidence may include printouts of unauthorised bank transactions, images and proof of stolen or impersonated social media and other accounts by your name, messages, emails or call logs from the suspected scammer. If you suspect someone in your circle to have performed the theft, the name of the suspect, backed by some concrete proof, can help the police conduct an investigation.
  • Jurisdiction – Like most cybercrimes, it is difficult to establish jurisdiction due to the possibility of spreading the crime over multiple regions. For example, the theft could have occurred in another county, state, or country. In such cases, based on the severity, the police may involve other authorities to help with the investigation.

Also read: How to know if your PC webcam has been hacked and how to tackle it?


What to do if you think your identity has been stolen

A person can do a few things in the wake of identity theft, but it is important to act fast to prevent further damage.

Notify affected companies and institutions

If your wallet, mobile or essential documents like your passport are lost or stolen, consider the possible repercussions and act accordingly. For example, if your wallet is stolen, a criminal could access your credit cards and government ID proofs with all your sensitive details. You should freeze your cards and notify the bank of possible unauthorised transactions. Closing accounts and opening new ones is safer to avoid stealing your money.

If your mobile is stolen, notify your SIM card issuer to block your number and apply for a new one. Change your contact number to the new one, wherever required.


Change your account passwords

If your phone and your wallet are stolen, criminals could even bypass your 2-factor authentication.

Immediately change passwords for all your critical accounts and usernames wherever possible. Change your two-factor authentication method if it was previously tied to your mobile number. Use an alternative email account or an authenticator app.

If your mobile is stolen, log into your critical accounts through another device and select the option to log out of accounts on all other devices.

For example, log into your Google account, tap the profile icon on the top right, and tap Manage your Google account. From the menu on the left, select Security, scroll until you find Your Devices and log out of the ones you don’t recognise.

Screenshot showing how to log out of devices from your Google account.

Monitor your accounts

Monitor your bank accounts, investment platforms, credit reports, insurance transactions, and social media accounts to spot any suspicious activity.

When you notice anything out of place, notify the concerned company or institution about possible fraud.

If you notice that you have been logged out of your account or that another account has been created in your name and is contacting people on your behalf, immediately notify your friend list to inform them of a potential scam.


File a complaint with the FTC

You can report identity theft and receive a recovery plan on the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) portal, identitytheft.gov. Once you have chosen your complaint type and followed the steps to provide further details, you will receive a recovery plan based on your situation. Some steps may include sending forms to financial institutions to dispute unauthorised transactions, replacing government-issued IDs and submitting an IRS Identity Theft affidavit in case of Tax Identity Theft.

Print out a copy of your affidavit report. Once you have filed the report, it can used as an official document that other law enforcement agencies can access during their investigation.


File a report with the police

USA: You should carry a copy of your FTC report, verifiable government ID proof, and address proof for the US. You should collect and submit additional evidence such as printouts of fraudulent transactions, messages, emails or call logs received from the scammer or screenshots of impersonated social media or financial accounts. Be sure to answer all the questions in detail and document the process to help with follow-ups.

Once the police report is successfully filed, it can be used to dispute fraudulent transactions at financial institutions.

India: For India, each local police department has a cybercrime cell where you can report an identity theft. The police report establishes that you are a victim of identity theft and helps procure legal compensation from financial institutions in case of fraud. Additionally, you can register a complaint on the government-authorised cybercrime portal.

With identity theft, victims often don’t know they have been hit until they notice fraudulent financial transactions. Sometimes, it may take months to discover the theft because fraudsters may target methods seldom checked by the victim, such as insurance coverages, credit reports, and tax returns.

To ensure preparedness to deal with identity theft if it happens to you, keep tabs on your finance and government-related reports and documents so that you can immediately take action if you notice anything suspicious.

Also read: What is the Geek Squad scam? 

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Vanashree Chowdhury

Being a tech enthusiast, Vanashree enjoys writing about technology and cybersecurity. She is a designer and marketer by profession and is deeply passionate about working on campaigns for social issues.

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