FAQ: Stolen Idenity

Around nine million Americans are the victim of identity theft every year according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).  Thieves use the stolen information to apply for credit, sign leases, buy cars, obtain government documents, or establish phone or utility services with no intention of paying on those accounts.  That negative information can then impact the victims’ credit report and often goes unnoticed until they are called by a debt collector or denied for a loan because of bad credit.

If you find that you have become a victim of identity theft, take the following steps:

  • File a police report.
  • Provide a copy of the police report to major credit reporting agencies – Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.  This will give you some legal protection by blocking any further harmful information appearing on the report.
  • File an ID Theft Complaint with the FTC.
  • Contact all of your financial institutions.
  • Contact an attorney who is experienced in handling identity theft cases.

For helpful tips about preventing identify theft and protecting your personal information, please go to http://www.ftc.com.

Can Facebook ruin your case?

Facebook is undoubtedly the most popular media site in the world, with 350 million users. If you are in the smallest of personal injury claims the information, pictures, and posts could ruin your case. How can this be possible? Well ponder this:

  • The pictures put on Facebook can be seen by anyone. Even with privacy settings networks of “friends” can view the pictures.
  • Courts have ordered plaintiffs to provide access to their page to insurance company lawyers.
  • Evidence from Facebook has been brought to court by the media, investigators and the police.
  • Law clerks for insurance defense lawyers check Facebook for their opponents’ profile, pages, pictures and any information they could use against the opponent.
  • By talking your medical problems in a public forum, you may lose the ability to protect your medical confidentiality in Court. This is why defense lawyers always want your medical information, even if it is not reliant to the claim you are pursuing.

Now here are some steps you can take to protect yourself.

  1. Look over your profile information, pictures, and status post to see if there is anything you would not want the insurance company lawyers to see or read.
  2. Check in your media privacy settings to see if you can block certain people from viewing your profile. Go ahead and block the insurance company lawyers and clerks.
  3. Search your name in the search bar and view what comes up when you do. You want to insure that the information presented is acceptable.
  4. Never accept requests or messages from people you do not know.
  5. You should treat your medical information even your health status, private and confidential not to be put on Facebook or other media sites.

Although the steps above are not foolproof, they will give you a better chance of your information not ending up in the wrong hands.

Invasion of Privacy in West Virginia

It is hard to imagine how one would feel after finding out someone was secretly taping and photographing them while they were undressing in private (the bathroom in their own home type of private).    In the State of West Virginia, it is only a misdemeaner to violate invasion of privacy laws.  This means if a pervert has secretly made peep holes in your bathroom and video taped you and/or your family, in the criminal court system the maximum sentence they would receive would be one year in jail and a $5,000 fine.  The only way they could be charged with a felony would be if they were repeat offenders (by the way, the felony charge only carries a maximum 5 year sentence and/or $10,000 fine). 

As a mother of a 14 year old daughter, this greatly disturbs me. 

Under current law, the only other possible recourse against the perpetrator would be through a civil action lawsuit.  West Virginia’s law, at least, recognizes that our freedoms would be denied if  our right to privacy is violated.   There is no limit or cap on these damages either.  In fact, punitive damages may apply if the acts involve children, the videos or photos are published, and/or the perpetrator abused a position of trust (babysitter, step-parent, teacher, employer, etc.). 

Make sure you contact a lawyer you can trust with experience and the knowledge to protect your rightsNo one should have to experience an invasion of privacy. The only way we can try to stop perverts is to make sure they suffer the consequences of their actions to the fullest.