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Criminal Identity Theft: How to Clear Your Record

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Would a records check on you erroneously show a criminal conviction? If it did, what steps would you take to clear your record?

For example, what would you do if in the course of applying for a mortgage or a job or looking for an apartment, the bank, employer or apartment manager told you, “forget about it” because a background or credit check came up with a criminal conviction on your record. So you didn’t know you even had a “record” did you? Well think again. This type of identity theft (or besmirching) is happening, again and again.

Trying to fix this type of criminal record error makes clearing your financial record after a financial identity theft look like a walk in the park (ok, a really big park, with a lot of really steep hills). This is partly because the reason for the error can be located anywhere from the criminal impersonator (if there is one) to errors by a law enforcement agency, by the database vendor, or by whomever is contracting for the information. (There are probably others in this chain.)

This problem is much more common than you would imagine (and that’s not including the airport and border check “terror-list” mistakes). I’ve come up few links on the subject, but will keep looking for more. But until I find that perfect checklist or guide, here are some places to begin:

Identity theft radio blog: This blog is California specific, but is the closest I’ve come to a Checklist.

The Privacy Rights Clearinghouse also has some good information and the FTC too.

Clearing up criminal records is usually a state-specific endeavor (unless, obviously, the record is a federal one). Each state will have its own procedure, e.g. here is a Massachusetts guide. (But with all the electronic records sharing that goes on among law enforcement organizations at all levels, be prepared for anything.)

And here are some search engine keywords that seem to work pretty well: correct errors criminal records and use the state’s name if you know it. Not all states use the same terminology so you may need to get creative.

Good luck – I hope this doesn’t happen to any of us! But it can and may, so be prepared.

And let me know if you find other useful links.

Disclaimer: It is against state law for library staff members to engage in any conduct that might constitute the unauthorized practice of law (ORS 9.160, 9.166 and 9.21). They may not interpret statutes, cases or regulations, perform legal research, recommend or assist in the preparation of forms, or advise patrons regarding their legal rights. They may, however, assist patrons in locating materials or links that would aid in individual research.