C.R.S. § 13-21-122, a Colorado statute, authorizes people or businesses harmed by criminal offenses involving the use of personal identifying information, such as identity theft, check counterfeiting, forgery, bank fraud, or insurance fraud, to sue the people or businesses who harmed them and recover actual damages, punitive damages, attorneys’ fees, and legal costs. C.R.S. § 13-21-122(2) (see below) defines “personal identifying information.” C.R.S. § 13-21-122 is a powerful but underutilized legal tool.
Offenses Involving Fraud
Title 18, Article 5 of the Colorado Revised Statutes is titled “Offenses Involving Fraud.” It includes statutes that prohibit the following conduct involving the use of personal identifying information:
- Forgery (see C.R.S. § 18-5-102)
- Using Forged Academic Records (see C.R.S. § 18-5-104.5)
- Obtaining Signatures by Deception (see C.R.S. § 18-5-112)
- Criminal Impersonation (see C.R.S. § 18-5-113)
- Offering a False Instrument for Recording (see C.R.S. § 18-5-114)
- Check Fraud (see C.R.S. § 18-5-205)
- Defrauding Secured Creditors or Debtors (see C.R.S. § 18-5-206)
- Insurance Fraud (see C.R.S. § 18-5-211)
- Email Fraud (see C.R.S. § 18-5-308; 18 U.S.C. § 1037)
- Writing Bad Checks (see C.R.S. § 18-5-512)
- Identity Theft (see C.R.S. § 18-5-902)
C.R.S. § 13-21-122 – “Civil liability for unlawful use of personal identifying information”
C.R.S. § 13-21-122 states:
(1) Notwithstanding any other remedies provided under this article, a person who suffers damages as a result of a crime described in article 5 of title 18, C.R.S., in which personal identifying information was used in the commission of the crime, shall have a private civil right of action against the perpetrator who committed the crime, regardless of whether the perpetrator was convicted of the crime. In such action, the plaintiff shall be entitled to actual damages, including, but not limited to damage to reputation or credit rating, punitive damages, and attorney fees and costs.
(2) For purposes of this section, “personal identifying information” means any information that may be used, alone or in conjunction with any other information, to identify a specific individual, including but not limited to: Name; date of birth; social security number; personal identification number; password; pass code; official state-issued or government-issued driver’s license or identification card number; government passport number; biometric data; employer, student, or military identification number; or financial transaction device as defined in section 18-5-701 (3), C.R.S.
Example Scenarios That Could Justify Filing a Lawsuit
- Bad Check Domino Effect. Someone’s spouse intentionally wrote you a bad check from their joint bank account. The bad check contained both spouses’ personal identifying information. Not knowing it was a bad check, you deposited it in your bank. Your bank gave you credit for some or all of the amount of the bad check you deposited. Relying on the bad check being good, you used some or all of the money from the bad check to write another check to a third party. A few days later you learned the bad check you deposited bounced. That caused the check you wrote to the third party to bounce. In addition to harming your creditworthiness with the third party, the bad check forced you to incur bank fees. If you sued the person or business that wrote the bad check and won, you could recover the value of your decreased creditworthiness, the value of the humiliation or worry you suffered, the value of the time you spent fixing the problems the bad check caused, all the bank fees you incurred, your attorneys’ fees, and your legal costs. You might also be able to recover punitive damages.
- Forgery. Someone forged your name on a contract or purchase order to obtain something of value on credit or loan with a business. Later you learned the person who forged your name failed to pay the bill. The business reported your past due status or default status to credit reporting agencies and damaged your creditworthiness. You hired an attorney to help you convince the business your signature was forged and remove the derogatory reports it made to credit reporting agencies. Eventually, everything was fixed. But you spent thousands of dollars on attorneys’ fees. If you sued the person who forged your name and won, you could recover the money you spent on attorneys’ fees before you filed the lawsuit as well as the money you spent on attorneys who litigated the lawsuit. You could recover damages for your emotional distress and reputational harm. You could also recover punitive damages.
- Identity Theft. Someone used your personal identifying information to obtain credit in your name and created a significant debt in your name. A few months later you received a past due notice. You contested the charges and proved to the company that you did not make the purchase. The company believed you and did not hold you responsible for the debt. Still, you knew someone had used your personal identifying information, including your social security number, to illegally obtain credit in your name. You reasonably feared it would happen again unless you took reasonable steps to prevent it. You read the Federal Trade Commission’s “Guide for Assisting Identity Theft Victims” and the Social Security Administration’s “Identity Theft and Your Social Security Number.” Convinced you needed to obtain a new social security number, you applied for and obtained a new one. You spent hundreds of hours during the next few years working with credit card companies, banks, other companies, and government agencies, to update your personal identifying information. If you sued the person who used your identity illegally and won, you could recover the value of the time you spent obtaining a new social security number and updating everyone. You could also recover the value of your decreased creditworthiness, your emotional distress, your attorneys’ fees, your legal costs, and punitive damages.
If you are a Colorado identity theft victim, fraud victim, or forgery victim, and you suffered thousands of dollars worth of damages as a direct result of someone using your or someone else’s personal identifying information, you should consider using C.R.S. § 13-21-122 to hold the wrongdoer(s) accountable in civil courts. You may contact our law firm if you want to learn more about what we can do to help you.
By Ed Hopkins, HopkinsWay PLLC. | © HopkinsWay PLLC 2015. All rights reserved.