Ask the County Law Librarian – Criminal Identity Theft
Q: A family member gave the police my name and social security number when he was arrested. Now there’s a criminal record coming up under my name, for something I had nothing to do with. This is causing me problems, making it really hard for me to find a place to rent and in my job search. Can I do anything to clear my name?
A: Usually when people think of identity theft, they think of financial crimes, such as obtaining credit cards or auto loans in another person’s name. Unfortunately, in addition to racking up debt in your name, an identity thief can also create a criminal record for you.
To help victims of criminal identity theft clear their names, California has created a process for victims to receive a court order allowing the addition of their name to the California Identity Theft Registry. This registry is only for victims of criminal identity theft; it is not available to those who were victims of financial identity theft. Once on this registry, victims receive documentation that they may present to police, employers, landlords, etc., as evidence of this criminal identity theft.
Many victims don’t learn of their situation until a background check turns up some unexpected criminal convictions. If an identity thief is arrested, charged, or convicted of a crime while using your name, or if your name was somehow associated with someone else’s criminal history, you can immediately ask the court to issue a Certificate of Identity Theft, which is order necessary to have your name added to the Registry.
Unfortunately, some people find out that their identity has stolen when they are arrested for a crime the ID thief committed! In these situations, the victim should first petition the arresting agency for a finding of factual innocence – this means that the agency acknowledges that you are not the guilty party and voluntarily seals and destroys all relevant records. If the agency does not do this within 60 days, you may then ask the court to issue a Certificate of Identity Theft.
The California Department of Justice, Office of the Attorney General has a very informative guide online at http://oag.ca.gov/idtheft/facts/how-to-registry, which explains the entire process, including where to find the proper forms.
More information and tips for victims of criminal identity theft is available at https://www.privacyrights.org/criminal-identity-theft-what-to-do-if-it-happens-to-you.
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