Identity Theft – What to Do When You Are a Victim of a Scam Artist
A few months ago I received a message from an attorney in Louisiana asking if I knew the whereabouts of a man I had never heard of. My interest peaked when I realized the person calling me was attempting to collect a debt. Since I have years of experience of working as a creditor attorney I knew right away that there was a problem when the creditor verified my social security number had been used for an account that I did not open or authorize. In the end I was able to rectify the situation by showing that the creditor had inadvertently entered the wrong social security number. This experience was terrifying, and made me feel victimized to think someone had my personal information and was using it for an unlawful purpose. Here are some tips on what you can do if you believe that your identity has been stolen or to prevent someone from using your information to obtain credit without your knowledge.
1. Obtain a free copy of your credit report once a year from: Annualcreditreport.com. One of the provisions of FACTA, passed in 2003 as an amendment to the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), was a requirement that each of the three credit reporting agencies provide, upon request, a free credit report every twelve months to every consumer. The goal was to allow consumers a way to ensure their credit information is correct and to guard against identity theft. You should request a report from all three credit bureaus; Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. This service is free one time per calendar year for the report if you do not request your credit score.
2. If you find something on your credit report that you believe to be fraudulent, report it immediately to all three major credit reporting agencies. Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion all have forms online where you can submit a dispute for inaccuracies on your credit report. See the dispute sections on: www.experian.com; www.transunion.com; www.equifax.com.
3. If you have knowledge that someone is using your information unlawfully you also have the option of issuing a fraud alert with all three credit reporting agencies to prevent future use of your information without your permission. No one will be permitted to obtain credit with your information without your written or verbal permission.
4. If you know that your information is being used, you also need to file a report with your local police or the police in the community where the identity theft took place. Many police departments will allow a report to be filed online or via telephone. Check with your local police department for local procedures.
5. A great source of information is the Federal Trade Commission. See: www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/microsites/idtheft/. The FTC estimates that as many as 9 million Americans have their identities stolen each year. This website provides a wealth of information on identity theft and all options available for fighting an identity thief.
If you believe that you have been a victim of identity theft and you are currently being sued for a debt, or are being harassed by a collection agency, call the experienced bankruptcy attorneys at Marrs & Terry for a free consultation to defend your rights. Your credit history affects multiple areas of your life and the experts at Marrs & Terry can help you get the remedy you need.