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Stolen Identity - What to Do if You're the Victim

on Tuesday, 05 September 2017.

Identity theft is on the rise in the UK and reached record levels last year. The financial and reputational costs can be high and identity theft can take many forms.

Some imposters create fake social media pages using another person’s details so they are then free to post inappropriate content, causing serious damage to the victim’s reputation. Identity theft can also affect your financial liability and credit ratings.

So, What Should You Do if You Have Fallen Victim?

In the first instance, report the identity theft to your bank and any other financial institutions likely to have been affected by fraud. You should also report the matter to the police for investigation.

However, limited police resources may mean that the matter cannot be pursued as a criminal prosecution. You may need to take further action yourself to remove offensive online content, recover stolen funds or obtain compensation.

Often the easiest way to get malicious online content taken down is to make a request to the host. Most social media sites have ‘report abuse’ processes. However, if removal via the host is not an option, there are a number of different legal grounds to bring a civil claim in identity theft cases, depending on the particular facts. These include:

  • Defamation
    Where false statements are made about you that cause serious harm to your reputation, you can seek damages for the harm caused.

  • Harassment
    If the imposter’s behaviour causes distress, and is repeated on more than one occasion, this can amount to harassment.

  • Data Protection
    Legislation prohibits the processing of another person’s data in an unlawful way. This includes information like an address and date of birth.

  • Privacy
    If someone has published your personal information without your consent and you have a ‘reasonable expectation of privacy’ in respect of the published information, you may be able to claim on the grounds of misuse of your personal information.

  • Breach of intellectual property rights
    If an imposter has published photographs for example online in which you own copyright, a claim based on breach of copyright could be a route to securing their removal.

Identifying an Imposter

This is likely to prove a challenge. However, most imposters eventually slip up, leaving clues as to their identity. It is possible to seek court orders against third parties who are caught up in (but are not culpable for) legal wrongdoing - such as internet host sites or retailers, who can be ordered to provide information helping to identify the imposter. In a recent case, we obtained a High Court order against Google as part of an investigation to uncover the identity of an internet ‘troll’.

If you are concerned that you may be affected, we have a specialist team of dispute resolution lawyers who can advise on identity theft claims and assist with identifying the imposter.

For further information, please contact Ben Holt on 0117 314 5478.

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