FCRA Claims – Identity Theft
Did you know that every year, 1 in 20 Americans are victims of offline and online identity theft? That accounts for billions of stolen money and countless ruined credit reports. Generally, the most common types of identity theft include, but are not limited to:
- Unauthorized use of debit or credit cards
- Criminals opening new credit accounts in your name
- Account takeovers of
- Government, identification, job, or tax fraud
Whether you’ve just received an initial fraud alert or you’ve noticed fraudulent activity on your credit report, the result of identity theft (that’s not handled correctly) can be complete financial devastation. That includes leaked personal information (i.e., name, birthdate, credit card numbers, social security number, etc.), negative information on credit reports, and endless calls from debt collectors.
If you’ve become a victim of an identity thief, it’s recommended that you immediately contact a law enforcement agency and file a police report, request a fraud alert or security freeze of your credit file, and contact an experienced Fair Credit Reporting Act Attorney.
Give us a call to get a free initial consultation with an experienced Fair Credit Reporting Act attorney about your case today. Continue reading to learn more about the effects of identity theft, what you can do about it, and when to file an FCRA claim with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
What Happens When You Report Identity Theft to The Credit Bureaus?
Suppose you are (or believe you are) the victim of identity theft. In that case, under federal law, the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) gives consumers specific rights to help enact a credit and identity recovery plan and help protect against future identity fraud.
In case you’re wondering, “Should I contact the credit bureaus about identity theft?” The answer is a resounding “YES.” Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, identity theft victims have many rights. These rights include, but are not limited to:
1. The Right to Request Consumer Reporting Agencies to Place a Fraud Alert on Your Credit File
A fraud alert makes it more challenging for an identity thief to get credit in your name. That’s because a fraud alert requires the major credit reporting agencies (i.e., TransUnion, Equifax, & Experian) to put specific steps in place to protect you and your identity.
It’s important to note that fraud alerts will also make it more difficult for you to verify your identity, and you’ll typically need to furnish more documentation for proof of your identity when applying for credit.
Once you place a fraud alert with one of the three credit bureaus, they send alerts to the other two agencies to do the same. Further, an initial fraud alert lasts for one year. On the other hand, an extended fraud alert can last as long as seven years.
2. The Right to Free Credit Reports (i.e., File Disclosures)
Whether you’re a fraud victim or believe you are, an initial fraud alert entitles you to one free copy of your credit report with all three agencies. An extended fraud alert entitles consumers to two free copies of their credit report (file disclosures) within the first year following the fraud alerts on their accounts.
3. The Right to Receive Documents Related to Fraudulent Transactions
Suppose an identity thief opens an account with your personal information. In that case, you are entitled to obtain all documents related to the fraudulent accounts and transactions resulting from that instance of identity theft. However, in most cases, you’ll need to furnish the companies with additional proof of your identity, a police report, and more.
4. The Right to Receive Information From Debt Collectors
Additionally, suppose you request a debt collector (resulting from identity theft) to give you certain information about the accounts in your name. In that case, they must furnish you with that information (i.e., name of the creditor and amount owed).
5. The Right to Request Consumer Reporting Agencies to Block Certain Information
Whether you’ve uncovered identity theft via credit monitoring or after a debt collector contacts you about a new account in your name, you have the right to request credit reporting bureaus (i.e., TransUnion, Equifax & Experian) to block certain information related to the identity theft from appearing. However, in most cases, you’ll need to provide proof of your identity and a copy of your identity theft report.
If the credit reporting bureaus don’t block the information, you may be entitled to compensation under the Fair Credit Reporting Act for resulting damages.
6. The Right to Prevent Businesses From Reporting Data Resulting From Identity Theft
Further, you also have the right to request creditors (i.e., credit card companies, banks, etc.) resulting from identity theft from reporting certain information to a credit bureau. Generally, this requires you to precisely identify the data you don’t want to be reported and furnish a copy of your identity theft report.
7. The Right to Get a Security Freeze on Your Credit Report
In addition to the rights listed above, victims of identity theft can request nationwide consumer reporting agencies to place a “security freeze” on their credit reports. Doing so helps to prevent accounts from being opened in your name without your approval. However, it’s essential to note that a security freeze also makes it more difficult for you to open an account as well.
For more in-depth information about the rights of identity theft victims, write the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau at 1700 G Street N.W., Washington, DC 20552, or visit https://www.consumerfinance.gov/learnmore.
Can Identity Theft Ruin Your Credit Score?
Identity theft involves the online or offline theft of your personal information (i.e., social security number, credit card information, name, date of birth, etc.) to open new credit accounts or place new charges on a current account.
With that in mind, most identity theft criminals don’t pay the bills they run up. As a result, negative information is likely to be reported to major credit reporting agencies.
How do I Remove Identity Theft From My Credit Report?
Removing identity theft from your credit report is more challenging than it seems. However, if you wish to protect your identity and financial health, it’s recommended you take the following steps, but not limited to:
- File a police report with a law enforcement agency and file an identity theft report with the FTC
- Add a fraud alert on your credit report with at least one credit reporting bureau
- Request a file disclosure (i.e., extended credit report) from all three agencies
- Quickly dispute fraudulent financial accounts on your credit reports
- Sign up for credit monitoring (many agencies offer free trials)
- If you’re in the armed services, place an active duty alert on your credit report
Suppose a victim of identity theft informs creditors and credit bureaus (i.e., Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion) about their stolen identity, but they neglect to take action. In that case, what should you do? Continue reading to learn about FCRA claims in the next section.
When Should a Victim of Identity Theft Make an FCRA Claim?
According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), creditors and credit bureaus are obligated to take certain actions when you report offline or online identity theft. They must investigate your claims and correct your credit reports if your claims are substantiated with credible evidence.
However, if creditors or credit reporting agencies refuse to take the right action, you may have a solid claim under the Fair Credit Reporting Act. If your case is successful, you may be entitled to financial compensation, including cash damages, actual damages, and potentially punitive damages. You may also be entitled to get the credit reporting information fixed.
Contact the fair credit attorneys at Ziegler Diamond Law today for a free initial consultation about your case.