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Read Video Transcript: Working with an Identity Theft Attorney
Identity theft is when someone uses your name, address, Social Security number (SSN), bank or credit card account number, or other identifying information without your knowledge to open accounts or commit fraud.
Identity thieves may use any number of low or high-tech methods to gain access to your personally identifying information.
Common Examples of How Identity Thieves Steal Your Information:
Once identity thieves have your personal information, they may:
Monitor the balances of your financial accounts. Look for unexplained charges or withdrawals.
Other indications of identity theft include:
Some of the signs mentioned above could be the result of a simple mistake, but you shouldn’t ignore these and just hope they will go away. Always follow up with the business or institution to find out exactly what is causing the situation.
To avoid becoming a victim of identity theft, there are certain preventative measures you can take.
The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) gives you specific rights when you are, or believe that you are, the victim of identity theft.
Here is a brief summary of the rights designed to help you recover from identity theft.
A fraud alert can make it more difficult for someone to get credit in your name because it tells creditors to follow certain procedures to protect you. It also may delay your ability to obtain credit. You may place a fraud alert in your file by calling just one of the three nationwide consumer reporting agencies. As soon as that agency processes your fraud alert, it will notify the other two, which then also must place fraud alerts in your file.
An initial fraud alert stays in your file for at least 90 days. An extended alert stays in your file for seven years. To place either of these alerts, a consumer reporting agency will require you to provide appropriate proof of your identity, which may include your Social Security number. We recommend that you file a report with your local, federal, or state law enforcement agency (police department). This will show the credit bureaus, your creditors, and others that you are very serious about your identity theft and will serve as back up documentation.
An initial fraud alert entitles you to a copy of all the information in your file at each of the three nationwide agencies, and an extended alert entitles you to two free file disclosures in a 12-month period following the placing of the alert.
These additional disclosures may help you detect signs of fraud, for example, whether fraudulent accounts have been opened in your name or whether someone has reported a change in your address. Once a year, you also have the right to a free copy of the information in your file at any consumer reporting agency, if you believe it has inaccurate information due to fraud, such as identity theft. You also have the ability to obtain additional free file disclosure under other provisions of the FCRA.
A creditor or other business must give you copies of applications and other business records relating to transactions and accounts that resulted from the theft of your identity, if you ask for them in writing. A business may ask you for proof of your identity, a police report, and an affidavit before giving you the documents.
It also may specify an address for you to send your request. Under certain circumstances, a business can refuse to provide you with these documents.
If you ask, a debt collector must provide you with certain information about the debts you believe were incurred in your name by an identity thief — such as the name of the creditor and the amount of the debt.
An identity thief may run up bills in your name and not pay them. Information about the unpaid bills may appear on your consumer report. Should you decide to ask a consumer reporting agency to block the reporting of this information, you must identify the information to block, and provide the consumer reporting agency with proof of your identity and the police report if you did file one.
The consumer reporting agency can refuse or cancel your request for a block if, for example, you don’t provide the necessary documentation, or where the block results from an error or material misrepresentation of fact made by you.
If the agency declines or rescinds the block, it must notify you. Once a debt resulting from identity theft has been blocked, a person or business with notice of the block may not sell, transfer, or place the debt for collection.
To do so, you must send your request to the address specified by the business that reports the information to the consumer reporting agency. The business will expect you to identify what information you do not want reported and to provide a police report.
If you require assistance with any of the above information on identity theft or have any questions, call us at 1-877-735-8600 to speak to a consumer protection attorney.
Francis Mailman Soumilas, P.C. has been protecting consumers’ rights for over 20 years. We fight back against illegal credit reporting, background checks, and debt collection harassment. If your identity has been stolen, we help you get the errors removed from your consumer reports so that you can get your life back.
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