Identify theft is one of the worst consumer crimes a person can experience in Arkansas. Many people find out when unexplained charges show up on their bank statements. Others find out the hard way when they learn that a home they own but never bought is now in foreclosure. One of the most surprising cases to encounter, however, is learning that you filed for bankruptcy — except, you actually did not.

You may wonder how this happened. WalletHub explains that someone else may have listed you as the owner of personal property and then filed bankruptcy in your name instead of their own. Assets with your name added could include vehicles, homes and even businesses. It seems unlikely, but it does happen.

The obvious question that follows is why would the thief bother to file for bankruptcy? Why not just let the debts pile up in your name and leave you to sort it out? This is no better of an alternative, but it requires less work on their part. The truth is that it may benefit the thief. Bankruptcy takes time, so while the courts try to follow due process, the thief can pack up and move on to the next location and the next victim.

The good news is that there are several things you can do if you ever find yourself in this situation:

  • Review your credit reports from the three main agencies.
  • File a complaint with the FTC for identity theft.
  • Contact the U.S. Trustee representative in your area.
  • File a police report with the local department.

Many people spend so much time and money rectifying the damage done by identity thieves that they fall behind on bills and end up filing for bankruptcy anyway. They may lose their job for crimes they did not commit or even their license to practice in their fields. If you find yourself in this position, consider your options carefully before choosing between Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy.