Identity theft is defined as the illegal use of someone else’s personal information (such as a Social Security number) in order to obtain money or credit. Unfortunately, as computer hackers proliferate and the incidence of data breaches goes up, the number of identity theft victims has increased. In fact, the Federal Trade Commission reports that the total of identity theft complaints jumped by nearly 50% between the years 2014 and 2015. Even more disturbing is that prevention is almost impossible.
Often, you don’t become aware that you’ve been victimized until you begin receiving calls from debt collection agencies or get an overdraft notice on your bank account. By then, your credit scores are affected and you may get denied for loans as a result. This is why credit agencies recommend credit monitoring to see if anything changes without your knowledge. Keeping a close eye on financial accounts and investigating questionable charges or withdrawals immediately is also important.
What you can do
If you discover that your personal information is being used fraudulently, the sooner you notify the authorities the better. Here are the steps to take:
- File a police report right away, and obtain several copies.
- Notify credit bureaus and your bank, and close any accounts or credit cards that you suspect have been compromised. Send copies of the police report to the credit bureaus and to your bank, requesting that any fraudulent accounts be removed and/or that any fraudulent purchases be reversed. Also be sure to request “extended fraud alerts” (up to seven years) and, if the situation is truly aggravated, you may want to place a security freeze on your credit reports. This takes your credit reports offline until and unless you activate them for a credit transaction.
- If you are unable to have fraudulent accounts removed from your credit report, then you need to contact Law Offices of Robert F. Brennan APC at your first opportunity. We handle identity theft cases under both federal and California law and have an excellent track record of results.
- If you are unable to have a bank or credit card company recredit any of your accounts, again, please contact Law Offices of Robert F. Brennan APC at your first opportunity. We have handled several cases where we have successfully forced banks and credit card companies to recredit the accounts of identify theft victims, mostly using the California Identity Theft Law.
- For more information about recovering from identity theft, the best resource out there is the Federal Trade Commission website on recovering from identity theft. Here is the link: https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/features/feature-0014-identity-theft
The laws protecting identity theft victims generally have provisions to force defendants to pay the attorney’s fees of successful plaintiffs, so Law Offices of Robert F. Brennan APC can frequently offer contingency or semi-contingency representation on these cases.