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, are more devastating to victims.
Consumer advocate attorney Howard D. Silver has been fighting for the rights of consumers in the Los Angeles area for three decades. He understands the seriousness of your personal and financial identity and uses his experience to help you through these difficult times as quickly as possible.
If you have been the victim of identity theft, please call our office at 855-341-2611 today to schedule a free consultation. The Law Offices of Howard D. Silver proudly welcomes those who live in Los Angeles, Riverside, Ventura and San Bernardino Counties, as well as other nearby areas in California.
- What is Identity Theft?
- Common Types of Identity Theft
- Business Identity Theft
- Online Identity Theft
- Common Identity Theft Tactics
- California Identity Theft Law
- Federal Trade Commission and Identity Theft
- Steps to Take After Your Identity Theft
What is Identity Theft?
According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), approximately 9 million Americans are victims of identity theft every year. It’s become an increasingly popular crime as access to people’s personal and financial information is more readily available because of online accounts and social media.
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
Common Types of Identity Theft
There are many types of identity theft that criminals use to take advantage of you for their own gain. Whether they target you as an individual or your business, the repercussions of this crime can last for years as you untangle the web of deceit and try to recoup the financial losses you’ve suffered.
While each case is unique and poses its own set of issues, the most common forms of identity theft include:
- 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 identifying 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
In most cases, by the time you realize that you’re a victim of identity theft the damage has already been done. You may be in tremendous debt or even worse, accused of a crime you didn’t commit. This can have a devastating impact on your credit rating, your finances, and your personal reputation.
Business Identity Theft
Business identity theft is not much different from individual identity theft. According to the California Secretary of State, “business identity 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
- Company credit card numbers
In addition to debts, victimized businesses can be left with collection notices, damaged credit, and a ruined reputation. The best defense against business identity theft is to be aware of common traps and of everything going on in your company. You can do this by:
- Checking your filings with the Secretary of State to make sure all the information is accurate
- Educating your employees on common identity theft traps
- Regularly monitoring your company's credit profile
- Establishing procedures for safely disposing of sensitive documents
- Password-protecting all network devices
- Having a company insurance policy that covers potential losses related to business identity theft
Online Identity Theft
Online identity theft has become one of the most prevalent crimes in the United States and around the 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. The following is a list of safe practices that can help keep you and your family’s identities safe and include:
- Using unique passwords for each online account
- Only using websites that you trust or have been approved by an antivirus program
- Limiting your personal information on social media
- Keeping track of all your accounts
Common Identity Theft Tactics
Identity theft occurs much more often than most people realize. Because of this, it’s 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:
- Posing as a bank representative and asking for your personal and/or banking information
- Posing as a member of a corporation to access customers’ personal information
- Using fake websites as duplicates of legitimate businesses to have you provide personal and financial information
- Taking jobs as employees to gain access to sensitive and customer and employee information
- Setting up temporary business accounts in a 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
- 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)
California Identity Theft Law
The state of California takes identity theft very seriously and individuals who commit identity theft face stiff criminal penalties if found guilty. Fortunately, identity theft victims are afforded certain rights and protections 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, attorney Howard 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
Federal Trade Commission and Identity Theft
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. 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 FTC’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.
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
- 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. Click here to learn more about the FTC Identity Theft Complaint Form.
Steps to Take After Your Identity Theft
If you’re a victim of identity theft, it’s imperative to act immediately to stop any further fraudulent activity. Unfortunately, resolving the unauthorized use of personal information falls on the victim. It’s a long but necessary process which unfortunately may include unfair or deceptive tactics on the part of creditors and/or debt collectors who continue to attempt to collect debts incurred by the identity thief.
According to the FTC and the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD), depending on the type of identity theft involved, victims should do the following:
- Analyze and place a Fraud Alert on all of your credit reports (click here to learn more about creating fraud alerts)
- File a police report and provide as much documented evidence as possible
- Report the identity theft to the FTC
- Contact the fraud/security department of each account and report the identity theft
- For each account, follow up in writing and ask for verification that the fraudulent activity/debts have been resolved and discharged
- Cancel stolen credit card accounts and obtain replacement cards. Ask that the old accounts be labeled "account closed at consumer's request"
- Notify your bank/financial institution if the fraudulent activity involves bank accounts or stolen checks. Cancel compromised accounts and open new ones.
- Creditors and/or banks may require you to fill out and notarize fraud affidavits, which can be expensive. Notarization is not required by law. If your creditors are subjecting you to excessively burdensome requirements, report them to federal authorities
- Contact the Social Security Administration (SSA) and report the theft/fraudulent use of your social security number
- Warn your electric, water, and gas companies of the theft and potential fraudulent activity
- Change your driver's license number and/or place a fraud alert on your DMV records
- Never pay any portion of a debt or bill resulting from identity theft. If any financial institution, merchant, or collection agency threatens legal action against you, consult immediately with an attorney
- Consult with a lawyer to determine whether legal action should be taken against uncooperative creditors and/or credit bureaus
Contact an Identity Theft Attorney Today
Identity theft attorney Howard Silver is committed to delivering the highly personalized representation you deserve. This applies to every aspect of your experience. 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. We proudly serve clients in Los Angeles, Riverside, Ventura, and San Bernardino Counties and throughout California.