Identity theft is the number one consumer complaint category for the Federal Trade Commission, comprising 13% of the total complaints filed. This isn’t new news either; identity theft has been the number one complaint for fifteen consecutive years.
In 2014, the Bureau of Justice estimated the absolute number of Americans who fell victim to identity theft to be 17.6 million people. That was nearly 7% of U.S. residents who were 16 and older. By contrast, in 2008 there were 11.7 million Americans affected by identity theft, demonstrating a rise of almost six million more victims in a span of only six years.
Get The Complete Picture
If you have been a victim of identity theft, chances are that you found out when it was already too late. The damage was already done and now it’s time to fix it. In many instances, however, identity theft is not limited to just a single incident. If your information has been stolen, there is a chance that the actual situation is much more complex.
For instance, the receipt of a single debt collection letter may seem like an easy-to-fix problem, but could actually translate one or all into the following:
- The fraudulent debt has been posted to the four Credit Reporting Agencies (CRAs)
- There are other fraudulent accounts that you don’t know about
- The identity thief submitted applications for new accounts that have yet to be posted to your credit report
Therefore, it is important to not only react quickly and closely monitor your credit report, but also to be patient and anticipate the worst. Always aim to identify the full extent of any potential fraudulent activities. Having an experienced identity theft attorney can be a great asset to you during this process.
How To Properly Notify The Authorities And Credit Reporting Agencies
There are two things that you should always do if you are the victim of an identity theft:
- File a formal police report
- Notify the Credit Reporting Agencies with the help of an attorney
Identity theft is a crime. Filing a formal police report ensures that there is a record of this criminal activity, just in case you find out who the fraudster is and want to bring up formal charges.
Secondly, employing the help of an experienced identity theft attorney should help you navigate around the technicalities of the Fair Credit Reporting Act.
The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) provides liability for Credit Reporting Agencies who negligently or willfully report inaccurate information. Although the FCRA generally prevents consumers from filing suit against the Credit Reporting Agencies, an attorney who understands the reinvestigative procedures under the FCRA may be able to assist you in drafting the necessary dispute letters to help the progress of your case.
In addition, an experienced attorney should be able to help you directly dispute your fraudulent debts with the creditors who originally reported that debt to the Credit Reporting Agencies. This additional step signifies that you have perfected all of your rights and can help open the door to the collection of punitive damages. Organization and record collection is key to the resolution of any identity theft.
When Notices Aren’t Enough
Sometimes, notifying the proper authorities through the correct channels is not enough. In many cases, the removal of fraudulent accounts requires litigation.
If your attorney has worked with you to execute the proper notification procedures, there are a handful of remedies available. These remedies lie within The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, The Truth In Lending Act, The Fair Credit Billing Act, and The Equal Credit Opportunity Act.
Post Claim Monitoring
Despite the efforts that you and your attorney put forth in the resolution of your identity theft issues, problems may still arise after your initial claim has been resolved. It is highly recommended that you regularly monitor your credit report for any future reappearances of fraudulent accounts. Your attorney should always have your ID theft or credit reporting files indefinitely active in these cases, just in case new disputes arise.