Identity theft is everywhere nowadays, and it can happen to anyone. When a person’s identity is stolen, the thieves often use the stolen identity to rack up debt, and as a result, debt collectors and creditors will often come after the identity-theft victim to collect. This leaves victims in a difficult legal situation since they were not the ones who racked up the debt, but the debts are fraudulently in their names.
So What Do You Do If You Think You are A Victim of Identity Theft?
The New York City Department of Consumer Affairs provides New Yorkers with a Debt Collection Guide that addresses debt-collection concerns as well as identity-theft issues. The guide provides readers with a step-by-step action plan to dealing with identity theft.
- Get a Copy of Your Credit Report. If you believe that you might be the victim of identity theft, one of the first things that you should do is contact one of the three major credit reporting agencies (Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax) and get copies of all three credit reports. Review your reports for any mistakes or debts that you do not recognize. If you find inaccurate information, you can dispute the incorrect information with the credit reporting agency – not just with the creditor – under the Federal Fair Credit Reporting Act. Send your disputes by certified mail, return receipt requested, and make your disputes as detailed as possible with copies of any documents that support your dispute. Make certain to send a copy of your dispute letter, together with copies of all your supporting documents to the “furnisher” – that is, to the creditor or debt-collector or other company that furnished the inaccurate information to the credit-reporting agency. Resist the urge to dispute online using the computer programs on the websites of the credit-reporting agencies – instead, dispute in writing, with supporting documents enclosed, and use certified mail, return receipt requested to communicate with both the agencies and with the furnishers.
- File a Police Report. If your credit check indicates that your identity has been stolen, contact the authorities and report the issue. Make sure to enclose a copy of the police report with your dispute letters to the credit-reporting agencies. Also provide a copy to the furnishers of the inaccurate information.
- Get in Touch with an Identity Theft Lawyer. Take your police report and your credit report to an identity-theft attorney and explain your situation. An experienced identity-theft lawyer will advise you on the steps you need to take to legally protect yourself and will assist you with dealing with the creditors and debt collectors.
- Take Steps to Dispute the Debts That Are The Result of Identity Theft. Any debts that are incurred as a result are not your debts, but the credit-reporting agencies, the creditors and the debt collectors do not know that you are the victim of identity theft unless you tell them, and in a timely manner. With the help of your lawyer, notify the credit-reporting agencies, and the creditors and debt collectors coming after you on the false debts. Make these disputes in writing and use certified mail, return receipt requested. In the letters, tell them about your situation and provide them with a copy of your police report and a Federal Trade Commission ID Theft Affidavit, which attests that you are telling the truth. Remember: it’s not enough to dispute only with the creditors and debt collectors – if false information appears on your credit reports as a result of identity theft, you should also dispute with the credit-reporting agencies!
- Verify that the Debt is Removed from Your Credit Report. If the credit-reporting agencies and the debt collectors or creditors believe that you have been the victim of identity theft, they should work with you and the credit reporting agencies to remove the debt from your credit report. Make sure you follow up, and obtain a new copy of your credit report to make sure that the debt is erased from your credit report. If the items resulting from identity theft aren’t removed and you get turned down for credit as a result, it may be time to sue. You are going to want an experienced identity-theft lawyer to help you as soon as possible.
Contact An Identity Theft Protection Lawyer
Anyone can become the victim of identity theft. If your identity has been stolen, follow the action plan above and get in touch with an experienced identity theft protection lawyer as soon as possible. Contact the professionals at the Bromberg Law Office, P.C. to schedule an appointment.