Identity theft is a crime that targets consumers and can potentially do serious damage to your personal finances. With the rapidly evolving innovations in technology, identity theft scams have become more complex in recent years and in many ways, have also become more devastating to victims.
If you have been the victim of identity theft, you will need the help of an experienced attorney to make sure your rights are protected. Howard Silver is an experienced identity theft lawyer in Los Angeles, and he can help you through this difficult time. Please call 855-341-2611 today to schedule a free consultation.
What is Identity Theft?
Identity theft occurs when a person uses your personal identifying information without permission to commit fraud or other crimes. This can include your:
Credit card number
Driver’s license number
Social Security number
Bank account information
According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), approximately 9 million Americans are victims of identity theft every year.
Common Types of Identity Theft
While all cases vary, there are essentially five different types of identity theft:
Criminal identity theft – the use of someone else’s identity when arrested for committing a crime
Financial identity theft – the use of someone else’s identity to obtain goods, services, and/or credit
Identity cloning – the use of someone else’s indentifying information to assume their identity in everyday life
Medical identity theft – the use of someone else’s identity to obtain prescriptions and/or medical care
Child identity theft – the use of a child’s identity for any of the above-mentioned purposes
Often, by the time you become aware that you have been the victim of identity theft, the person committing the crime has saddled you with thousands of dollars in debt, or you may be accused of crimes you did not commit. This can have a devastating impact on your credit rating, your finances, and your personal reputation.
Most Common Tactics and Scams Used by Identity Thieves
Identity theft occurs much more often than most people realize. Therefore, it is extremely important to be on the lookout for wrongdoers who want to steal your identity. Always be careful when providing others with sensitive information, and make sure you verify the identity of the person asking you for this information.
Knowing the most common tactics used by identity thieves will help you avoid falling victim to this devastating crime. Some of the most common ways identity theft is committed include:
Bank representative -- You may be contacted by an identity thief claiming they work for a bank that you use. Often, they will tell you this is a courtesy call regarding an issue with your account, and they will ask for personal information such as your name, date of birth, bank account number, and other information that can be used to steal money.
Be aware that most banks don't make contact like this. Instead of providing this person with your information, call your bank back, ask to speak with a representative, and verify that this problem exists.
Company identification -- Identity thieves commonly pose as a member of a corporation in order to access customers' personal information from the corporation's database.
Fake websites -- Some identity thieves will create duplicate websites for a legitimate business and try to lure customers to their fake website via email. Once on this duplicate site, you will be prompted to provide personal information which can be used to steal your identity.
Stealing customer data as a legitimate employee -- Some identity thieves will take jobs with companies that have access to customers' financial information. These jobs can range from restaurant workers who run customer credit cards to bank clerks who have access to bank account information. They often use these jobs to steal the financial information of large groups of people at once.
Business ID Theft Defined
Business identity theft is not much different from individual identity theft. According to the California Secretary of State, "business ID theft happens when criminals pose as owners, officers or employees of a business to illegally get cash, credit, and loans, leaving the victimized business with debts." They do so by stealing identifying information of a business, such as bank account numbers, tax ID number, business records, and company credit card numbers. In addition to debts, victimized businesses can be left with collection notices, damaged credit, and a ruined reputation.
Common Business Identity Theft Scams
The schemes used by identity thieves for businesses are not much different from individual victim identity theft traps. Some of the most common business ID theft traps and/or scams include:
Setting up temporary business accounts or office space in the company's name;
Obtaining goods or services with business credit card information or a dummy account in the company's name;
Dumpster-diving in the company recycling or trash bins for account information and other records;
Running phishing scams against company employees for business account information; and
Changing company information, such as office address and names of executive officers, with the CA Secretary of State (it is important to retain copies of any fraudulent filings as evidence).
Preventing Business Identity Theft
The best defense to business identity theft is to be aware of common traps and of everything going on in your company: Check your filings with the Secretary of State to make sure all the information is accurate; educate your employees on common ID theft traps; regularly monitor your company's credit profile; and have established procedures for safely disposing of sensitive documents. A business should also password-protect all network devices. Having a company insurance policy that covers potential losses related to business identity theft would also be beneficial.
Online Identity Theft
Online identity theft has become one of the most prevalent crimes in not only the United States, but the entire world. With our ever-growing dependence on the Internet, thieves have taken advantage of the situation for their own gain. Rather than pickpocket or rob a victim face-to-face, thieves use hacking, phishing, and other online criminal tactics to take advantage of potential victims. These schemes can range from single instances to multi-country operations.
In either case, victims can lose large sums of money and suffer heavy damage to credit in a short span of time. To stay as safe as possible, everyone should adhere to certain rules when using the Internet.
Do not use the same password for all the websites that you use. If a thief finds out your password and all the websites you use, he or she may be able to gain access to your personal information. Create unique passwords that do not overlap with each other and a system for remembering them.
Use Trusted Sites
Only use websites that you trust or have been approved by an antivirus program. I.D. thieves may duplicate sites that you commonly trust or create other fake web pages to trick you into inputting your credit or debit card information.
Limit Personal Info on Social Media
Sites like Facebook and Twitter are used to connect with other people. Be careful, however, about the information you put on line. If you say too much, it could help thieves get the data they need to steal your identity.
Keep Track of Your Accounts
Never lose track of the bills you owe, your funds, and other financial matters. Being up to date on your finances can help you to immediately notice when something is wrong and take steps to put an end to your victimization.
What is a Fraud Alert?
If you learn or suspect there has been fraudulent activity on one or more of your accounts, you can place a fraud alert on your credit report with one of the three major credit bureaus, Equifax, TransUnion, or Experian. The company you contact must give notice of the fraud alert to the other two. Although it's not foolproof, the alert lets creditors know they should confirm the account holder's identity before approving any action on the account. This is meant to prove that the person who is paying for something or opening a card in your name is actually you and not the person who stole your vital information.
The fraud alert also entitles you to a free credit report, which should be scrutinized for fraudulent activity. If you find fraudulent activity, you must have it removed, or you will be made to pay debts you did not create.
Types of Fraud Alerts
According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), there are two types of fraud alerts that can be placed on your credit report: an initial alert and an extended alert.
Initial Alert vs. Extended Alert
An initial 90-day fraud alert is a preventative measure when you suspect you have been the victim of identity theft or believe you will be a victim of identity theft. The circumstances surrounding an initial alert are usually a lost or stolen wallet or a phishing scam. With this type of alert, potential creditors cannot issue new accounts without first confirming the person's identity. Unfortunately, creditors do not always catch identity fraud. This type of alert also gives you one free credit report so that you can monitor your accounts.
An extended alert is placed on a credit report if you have been the victim of identity theft and have provided the consumer reporting company/credit bureaus with an Identity Theft Report through local law enforcement. With this type of fraud alert, creditors must contact you or even meet with you in person before issuing credit. The extended alert provides two free credit reports from each of the three major credit bureaus within a one year period.
A Fraud Alert is Not a Solution
Fraud alerts do not stop the fraudulent use of existing accounts; they only stop the opening of new accounts. As such, they are a prevention or warning system, but cannot actually fix damage already done by an identity thief. If you have confirmed fraudulent activity through fraud alerts, you must follow-up by removing the fraudulent accounts and activity from your credit report. Even though the debt may have been incurred by an identity thief, creditors, credit bureaus, debt collectors, and other third parties may still attempt to obtain your money for a debt you don't owe.
California Identity Theft Law
The state of California takes identity theft very seriously. Individuals who commit identity theft face stiff criminal penalties if found guilty. In addition, identity theft victims are afforded certain rights and protections in place to guard against creditors who attempt to collect debts that are determined to be fraudulent.
If you have established yourself as an identity theft victim, you may be entitled to file a civil lawsuit against creditors who unlawfully pursue the collection of debts incurred as a result of the identity theft. Depending on the specifics of your case, Mr. Silver may be able to help you receive one or more of the following:
A declaration that you are under no obligation to the creditor for the fraudulent claim
A declaration that any security or other property interest the creditor obtained in relation to the fraudulent claim is unenforceable and void
An injunction prohibiting the creditor from collecting or attempting to collect on the claim
Damages, attorney fees, other costs, and any appropriate “equitable relief” as determined by the court
A civil penalty of $30,000 against the creditor/debt collector
The Federal Trade Commission
There are various agencies that help protect California consumers, such as the local police department, the Department of Consumer Affairs, the California Office of Privacy Protection or the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The FTC has been committed to protecting the economic life of American consumers since its creation in 1914. Although its original purpose was to prevent unfair competition, the Commission's role has evolved into the national agency responsible for protecting consumers against all "unfair and deceptive acts or practices." In keeping with this new role, the FTC plays an important part in helping consumers deter, detect, and defend against identity theft.
Deter – Detect – Defend
The FTC is aware of the increase in identity theft cases and provides a number of resources to help American consumers prevent, identify, and resolve identity theft. With its message of "Deter, Detect, Defend," the FTC provides consumers with useful information such as how identity theft commonly occurs, how consumers can protect themselves on a daily basis, and what steps to follow once a consumer has discovered they are a victim of identity theft. Aside from valuable information and various resources, the FTC provides consumers with a method of reporting their identity theft directly to the Commission.
FTC ID Theft Complaint Form
Although it does not resolve individual complaints, one of the most important steps after discovering that you have been the victim of identity theft is filing a complaint with the FTC. The Commission uses the ID Theft Complaint Form to help them detect and establish patterns of illegal conduct, which leads to prosecution of wrongdoers. All complaints are kept in a secure online database called the Consumer Sentinel, which is accessible to thousands of criminal and civil law enforcement authorities. Filing an FTC complaint will also help prove that you are a victim and help local authorities resolve your case.
Prior to Filing the Affidavit
Contact the fraud departments of the three major credit bureaus in the United States (Equifax, Experian, and Trans Union) and place a fraud alert to prevent new credit from being opened.
Close all accounts that have been tampered with or opened due to fraud.
Collect all information that will be needed for the affidavit including copies of photo I.D.’s; bank and credit statements that show the fraudulent actions; and contact info on any official you have been in touch with.
Completing the Affidavit
10.5 . Do not skip a single one. If separate instances of fraud occurred with the same company, write those in separate boxes. Copy this page as many times as needed in order to report all instances of fraud.
Include all personal information. This will give the FTC a clear picture of your identity and find any fraud that has occurred under your name.
For the "At the Time of the Fraud" section, fill in any personal information that was different when the crime occurred. If nothing has changed, leave it blank.
When making declarations about the fraud, remember that these statements may be used in future legal actions and will help officials to effectively put an end to the fraud.
For "About the Fraud," consider who may have been behind the theft. If you strongly believe you know who it was, fill in any information that you can. Leave unknown information blank.
Fill out any information on how personal information was stolen and what documents were used during the crime.
Attach any papers that help to prove the incident, such as bank and credit statements.
Select one, or both, ways that you can verify your identity. Then attach copies of your photo I.D. card, birth certificate, or rental/lease agreement, whichever is applicable.
Detail all information that may have been altered by identity thieves.
Identify any company that has made a credit inquiry due to the theft.
Give detailed information regarding what fraud has occurred. This includes the institution that was involved, account number, check numbers, account type, date of the fraud, date discovered, and total amount obtained.
Give contact information for the law enforcement department you filed a report with concerning your theft. This includes the report number, filing date, as well as name and badge number of the officer.
Sign the document in the presence of a law enforcement officer, notary, or other witness.
Obtain the signature of a notary and a witness to verify your identity. This will help when submitting copies of this form to companies.
How Long Does it Take to Resolve the Effects of Identity Theft?
There is no set amount of time dictating how long the effects of identity theft may last. According to the FTC, how long the situation may last depends on a number of factors, (), including whether or not your information was passed on to someone else, if the thief was caught, OR if there are complications with your credit report. ID theft victims should monitor all account activity for the first several months after the theft and then, at least yearly, review their credit reports.
A Commitment to Highly Personalized Representation
When you choose to work with Mr. Silver, you get Mr. Silver all the time. He is committed to delivering the highly personalized representation you deserve. This applies to every aspect of your experience, including phone calls. He makes it a priority to personally communicate with all of his clients instead of using secretaries, assistants, or paralegals as his point of contact.
In addition, Mr. Silver personally handles just about every aspect of your case, from your initial consultation through the trial (if one is necessary). In some instances, he will have an associate attorney work with him on your case to ensure no detail is overlooked. This level of personalized care will give you the edge you need when seeking to maximize your compensation.
If you need assistance with an identity theft issue, please contact The Law Offices of Howard D. Silver today to schedule your free consultation. You can reach us by filling out the form on this page or calling us at (855) 341-2611. Mr. Silver serves clients in Los Angeles, Riverside, Ventura, and San Bernardino Counties and throughout California.