Fast Answers to Your Most Pressing Debt Collection and Credit Reporting Questions
Can a collection company call multiple times per day? Can a creditor really increase your interest rate if you cannot pay your bills? If you have a question about debt collection, credit reporting, or any other issues related to consumer law, our FAQ section might provide the answer you need right now. If it doesn't, contact us using the contact form or the toll-free number and we'll answer it for you within 24 hours!
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How can identity theft affect my credit score?
If you’re asking the question, you already know how important your credit score is. This key piece of information determines whether you can buy a house, lease a new car, and get a decent interest rate. So when all of this is jeopardized by an identity thief, you need to know how to fix it fast.
How an Identity Thief Can Lower Your Credit Score
First, the basics. When a thief gets ahold of personal information like your Social Security number, bank accounts, credit card accounts, and more, he or she can use it to open lines of credit in your name. Of course, the thief has no intention of PAYING those debts, so they sit unpaid in your name and on your credit reports. You may not even know they’re there unless you check your Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion credit reports often. Based on some of the components FICO uses for calculating your score, here are some of the ways identity theft can affect your score:
Poor Payment History
Even a single missed payment can drop your credit score, so the longer a bogus account sits on your credit report, the more damage it will cause. If a thief empties out your checking account and auto payments to legitimate creditors or utilities are missed, that can have an effect as well.
It’s never good for your credit cards to be maxed out, but a thief won’t hesitate to do it and you’ll pay the price in a lower score if you don’t catch it quickly.
Multiple Credit Cards In Your Name
If a thief gets multiple credit cards in your name, it can shorten the length of your credit history, lowering your score.
Too Many Credit Card Applications
Even after a thief begins to be rejected for new credit cards in your name, the fact that he is even applying for them can lower your score because the credit reporting agencies ding you for what they call hard inquiries.
These effects should be temporary if you realize your identity has been stolen and take steps to undo the damage.
How to Recover From Credit Identity Theft
I explained how to clear up debt in an earlier article, but in a nutshell, you will need to contact the credit reporting agencies and inform them that the accounts on your report are not yours. You will also need to contact the creditors who hold the accounts. Debt collectors may begin to contact you and harass you about the debt. In some of these cases, you may be able to take legal action against these agencies if they fail to take the bogus accounts out of your name. You do not have to suffer through this process alone! Contact me online or call my office directly at 855.982.2400 to find out if I can help you get out of this frustrating mess.
What are the most common types of credit identity theft in California?
When an identity thief steals your personal information, he or she usually has a plan for what they are going to do with it. Most commonly, the goal is to either steal money from you or use your identity to get goods and services that the thief won’t have to pay for because he can’t be caught.
How Can An Identity Thief Steal Your Information?
There are a variety of ways he can accomplish these goals, including the following:
Taking Over Your Existing Accounts
In the old days, a thief would simply steal your wallet and use your credit cards until the cards were declined. Today, thieves go for broke by stealing the passwords or PINs for your credit card or bank accounts and taking them over by changing your address and ordering replacement credit or debit cards. Because your cards are not missing, you may not realize it’s happening for months.
Opening New Accounts In Your Name
If a thief gets ahold of your Social Security Number (SSN) or other sensitive information, she can order credit cards and take out loans in your name, which, of course, she will never have to pay because it’s not really her borrowing the money—it’s you! Unless you see these accounts on one of your credit reports, you will have no idea you are racking up debt.
Filing A Tax Return In Your Name
With your SSN, a thief can also file your tax return. You might think he’d be doing you a favor, but if he reroutes your tax refund into his own pocket, it’s not such a bonus. You could also end up in trouble with the IRS.
If Creditors Don’t Help You Fix it, You Can Sue Them
There’s no way around it—having your identity stolen and having debt piled up in your name is a major inconvenience, to say the least. You will have a tough road ahead getting the damage cleaned up, but you should not have to deal with a debt collector hounding you or a credit reporting agency (CRA) refusing to remove false information from your credit reports. In fact, the law backs you up on this. If you are being contacted about debt resulting from identity theft or a CRA will not remove false information from your credit reports, you can take legal action and possibly even win damages.
Contact a California Consumer Attorney to Learn More
Tell me about your case, and I will not waste any time letting you know if I can help. I will send you information about how to get the false information removed and if we can file suit against an agency for damages, we will. The best part is, you won’t owe me a dime unless we win damages, so you have nothing to lose by contacting me. Contact me online or call my office directly at 855.982.2400 and let me know what happened to you today.
How does California law protect victims of identity theft?
Identity theft is such an insidious crime that it is often impossible to catch and prosecute the perpetrator. So where does this leave victims who are hoping for some kind of justice? While you’ll probably never see the criminal prosecuted, there are laws in place in California that help you control the damage he caused and recover from the financial fallout. Enacted in 2017, the California Identity Theft Resolution Act helps victims resolve credit identity theft problems more quickly.
What the Law Requires of Debt Collectors
While not the only problem caused by identity theft, one of the common ways identity thieves steal from you is to take out lines of credit or open credit cards in your name. The thieves obviously don’t pay these debts so they become your debts. Part of the process of recovering from identity theft is informing creditors of the theft and getting the debts taken out of your name. Under California law, debt collectors must do the following:
- Start a review of the disputed debt within 10 business days of receiving your statement and a police report
- Notify the credit reporting agencies that certain accounts are under dispute
- Inform you of their determination within 10 days of concluding their review
- If they determine that the debt was caused by identity theft, they must notify the original creditor of its intention to stop attempting collection within 10 days
- Order the credit reporting agencies to remove the adverse information from your credit reports within 10 days
The time limits imposed by the act are essential for allowing you to get on with your life more quickly after your identity has been stolen.
What You Can Do if a Debt Collection Agency Does Not Cooperate
If a debt collector fails to take these actions within the required time period and continues to try to collect from you, you may be able to take legal action against them. When you work with a California consumer attorney, you can expect one or more of the following remedies:
- A statement from the creditor declaring that you are under no obligation to them for the fraudulent claim
- An order prohibiting the creditor from further attempts to collect on the claim
- Attorney fees, other costs, and any appropriate damages as determined by the court
If you are struggling with an identity theft nightmare, fill out our contact form and we will get back to you as soon as possible to discuss your options.
Should I place a freeze on my credit file?
It feels like massive data breaches are happening all the time. When it happens, you probably hear newscasters advising people who may be affected to place a freeze on their credit files. What does this mean and should you do it? We explain here.
What Does a Credit Freeze Do?
The first thing to understand is that freezing your credit is not a guarantee that your identity will be protected. When you place a freeze on your credit report, the credit reporting agency (CRA) will not release your credit information to a third party without your permission. Because creditors check credit reports before issuing a loan or credit card, anyone trying to do so in your name will be stopped. You will have to place the freeze with each of the three CRAs—Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion—separately. After that, you can expect the following:
- The CRAs will lock down your reports so that no new creditor or other party can get access to them without getting a PIN from you.
- Your current creditors will continue to have access.
- If you want to open a new line of credit, apply for a mortgage or car loan, or need to have a background check conducted, you will have to lift the freeze for the parties who need access to your report.
- Credit freezes are free and will stay in place until you remove them.
Placing a credit freeze may give you some peace of mind if your identity has been stolen—or if your personal data, including your Social Security number, have been compromised—but it can’t stop a thief altogether and it may be more trouble than it’s worth.
"Mike was kind, compassionate, knowledgeable and took an interest in learning the facts of my case before he made an assessment. He was willing to take the time to listen with an open mind. It was clear he enjoys helping people and he was very thoughtful when recommending the best approach for me. As you search for people to help you with your case, I would urge you to call Mike now! He also has a fantastic support team and great tools to help ease the struggle when you need to be heard."
The Downside of a Credit Freeze
A credit freeze will create a lot of work for you, so you want to make sure it’s the right action to take if your personal information has been stolen. Every time someone needs to access your credit report—including you—a PIN will have to be provided. If you are in the process of buying a car, moving, applying to school, or job hunting, you will be handing out a lot of PINs. A credit freeze will not prevent someone from using your credit card number to make purchases, which is the most widespread type of theft. Unless someone got ahold of your Social Security number and has filed a tax return or is opening new accounts in your name, a credit freeze may not be the right move to make.
Credit Report Problems Due to Identity Theft? Call Me!
Credit freeze or not, if you have incorrect and damaging information on your credit reports caused by identity theft and the CRAs are not cooperating in helping you clean up the report, contact me. They are breaking the law and may owe you damages, as well as being required to fix your reports and your credit score. Not sure what to do after being the victim of identity theft? Contact me online or call my office directly at 855.982.2400. I’ll help you understand your options.
Will filing a dispute with a credit bureau hurt my credit score?
You have followed my—and everybody else’s—advice and checked your credit reports from Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Congratulations! That’s a great first step. The problem is, you have found an error on one or more of them and are reluctant to file a dispute because you’re worried that making waves might affect your credit score. I find that the best antidote to worry is information. Read on to find out how a dispute could affect your score.
The Mysterious Credit Score
One reason people worry about doing something to lower their credit score is that they don’t understand what the score is. It’s a powerful number, but it’s a mystery to many of us. We know that a low credit score can affect our ability to get a loan or rent an apartment and can raise the interest rates we get when we are approved for a loan, but that’s about all we know. Here’s a quick explanation: the credit score you see on your Equifax, Experian, or TransUnion credit report is calculated by applying a formula developed by the credit bureaus to your credit history, which includes your available credit, payment history, credit balances, and other factors. The better your history with credit is, the higher your score will be.
Finding an Error on Your Reports
The reason you should be checking your reports every year is that there are often mistakes and inconsistencies on them. Some mistakes are minor—a previous address is incorrect, or there is a strange phone number listed. But there can also be accounts that are not yours, payments reported as missed when they were paid on time, and old debt that should have been removed. When you see a mistake—whether it is minor or major—you should file a dispute with the credit bureau. Instructions for doing this are on each bureau’s website.
Filing a Dispute Will Not Affect Your Score
Simply informing a bureau that there is a mistake on your report will not affect your score, so this should not dissuade you from filing a report. In fact, it’s important that you get the misinformation corrected or removed so that it doesn’t affect your score down the road. If you are correcting identification or contact information, the change will not affect your score. However, if you successfully get harmful information removed, your score may go up. Really, you have nothing to lose by disputing an error on your report.
When You May Have Cause for Damages
When you file a dispute with a credit bureau, they have a limited amount of time to respond and take action. If you have taken all the required steps to communicate with them and they have failed to respond, you may have cause to sue for damages. If you have reached the end of your rope with a credit bureau, call me to discuss your options. I help Californians exercise their consumer rights.
Can I hire my own lawyer to fight my military housing landlord?
Absolutely! In fact, in order to navigate the complicated state and federal laws that apply to your situation, it is highly recommended that you do hire a non-military attorney to help you get out of your lease without penalty and get the compensation you deserve for your damages. Base legal won’t be able to help you because it is a conflict of interest for them to represent you in suing a military partner, but I can help you.
I served in the Marine Corps after law school, and I have been fighting for servicemembers’ civil rights for over 20 years. I know the military, and I know the laws as they apply in this situation. If you are struggling with mold, rodents, lead paint, or another hazard in base housing, reach out to me to discuss your case.
What I Can Do for You
I’ve heard the story from servicemembers just like you. They are living in hazardous conditions in base housing—breathing in dangerous mold spores, exposing their children to toxic lead paint, or constantly cleaning up rodent droppings—but their Lincoln Military Housing or another private landlord won’t do anything about it. In fact, they are being blamed for being a poor housekeeper. Their personal possessions have been ruined, their children have been harmed, and they can’t afford to move. If you are in the same situation—no matter where you are stationed across the country—contact me about your rights. I may be able to take legal action under one of the following:
Your State’s Tenants’ Rights Laws
Every state has laws addressing breach of contract, warranty of habitability, and constructive eviction that protect renters from the kinds of issues you are facing. If your landlord broke a state law in their treatment of you, I can file suit in your state of residence.
Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA)
This federal law protects military members from being evicted without a court order. If you are forced out of your base housing because it has become uninhabitable, I can file suit in federal court under the SCRA.
The bottom line is, you won’t know what your rights are or what can be done to get you out of this nightmare until you talk to a lawyer who is removed from the situation.
Fill Out the Form on This Page
When you fill out the contact form to the right of this article and hit the “Get In Touch” button, your message comes straight to me, and I will get back to you as soon as possible. Include a few words about what’s happening, and I will be prepared with answers for you. Don’t let Balfour, Lincoln, Patrician, or Pinnacle get away with breaking the law. Together, we can hold them accountable and get you the compensation you deserve. You can also call me toll free at 855.982.2400.
What should I do if I find mold in my military base housing?
When you own your home, you make every effort to keep it in good repair and to make sure it is a comfortable and safe environment for your family. When you are leasing a property, the condition of the home is often out of your control because the landlord is responsible for major repairs. With most residential leases, renters have the law behind them in getting a dangerous situation such as the presence of black mold corrected by the landlord. However, when you are leasing a house on a military base from a private contractor, you may feel like you don’t have the same rights as a private citizen. I am here to assure you that you do have a right to safe housing and that mold growing in the home is definitely a serious problem for health and safety.
Why Mold Is So Dangerous
Certainly, spreading areas of black stuff is unsightly on the ceiling of your shower stall or around an air conditioning vent, but you may wipe it down and think the problem is solved. When the source of the problem is a leak or constant dampness, however, toxic mold will keep coming back. Mold is actually a living fungus that grows in warm, damp, and humid conditions and spreads by releasing spores, a kind of microscopic seed. When these spores are released into the air inside a home, they are breathed in and come in contact with skin. Why is that bad? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), mold can cause:
- Allergy symptoms, such as wheezing, stuffy nose, and itchy eyes
- Irritated skin
- Shortness of breath
- Neurological symptoms, such as mood swings and tremors
- Respiratory infections
These symptoms are often mistaken for other illnesses, but having your home tested for mold can confirm it as the cause of your family’s medical complaints.
A Common Problem on Military Bases
When military housing was privatized in 1996, management companies took over responsibility for houses on base from the Department of Defense. Toxic mold has been a recurring problem on bases across the country, from Camp Pendleton in California to Oceana Naval Air Station in Virginia Beach. Families have reported mold blooms across the ceiling, around air vents, under carpeting, and in bathrooms and basements. Their children have suffered from severe respiratory infections and asthma. Management companies such as Lincoln Military Housing have repeatedly shirked the costly job of mold remediation and have allowed their residents to continue to get sick.
How a California Attorney Can Help You
No matter where in the U.S. you are serving your time in the military, I can help you take on your landlord when you are struggling to get mold removed from your base housing. There are both federal and state laws requiring your landlord’s cooperation in providing you with safe housing or allowing you to leave without penalty and I will apply those laws to your situation to help you protect your family. Contact me online or call me directly at 855.982.2400.
Why is base legal refusing to help me with my housing issue?
One of the perks of serving in the military is having access to free legal services. With offices on most bases across the country, military attorneys (judge advocates, or JAG) are available to help servicemembers with a myriad of legal issues, from writing a will to representing a servicemember in a divorce or legal separation. In some cases, the legal assistance office on your base can also help with housing or landlord problems, but only if your housing is not managed by a private contractor. Unfortunately, less than two percent of base housing is owned and managed by the Department of Defense (DoD); the remaining 98 percent is privatized and your base legal office will not be able to represent you in a dispute.
Tenants Get Lost in Deal Between Military and Private Landlords
Because the military has contracts with the property management companies running its base housing, it would be a conflict of interest for military lawyers to sue landlords. This arrangement hurts servicemembers in multiple ways. While state or local law may allow a tenant to withhold rent until a repair is made, servicemembers do not have this option when their housing allowance goes straight to the landlord. Tenants in base housing also cannot report dangerous conditions to local authorities because their inspectors will not be permitted on base.
What Can You Do If You Are Stuck in This Trap?
While you may be advised to the contrary by your landlord and by the legal assistance office on your base, you do have the right to hire your own private attorney to represent you in a landlord dispute. Regardless of the contract between your landlord and your employer, you are entitled to exercise your rights under local, state, and federal laws and, as a Marine and consumer attorney in private practice, I am uniquely qualified to represent you when you are living with mold, rodents, lead paint, or other uninhabitable conditions.
Call Me for a Free Consultation
No matter which branch of the military you are in or where you are stationed, I am available to hear your story and discuss your options. Call me at 855.982.2400 or fill out the form on this page for a free case review. You have rights and I am here to protect them!
Can I leave base housing due to uninhabitable conditions?
If you are living with rodent feces, black mold, lead paint, no heat, or dangerous structural damage in a rental house on a military base, you have every right to move your family out to a safer location and you should not be penalized for doing so. However, it’s unlikely that the private company who is managing the housing on base will let you go that easily. In order to exercise your rights, you will probably need a lawyer to fight for you.
Your Right to Habitable Housing
All branches of the military at bases across the country have contracted out management of housing to private partners such as Lincoln Military Housing. The Department of Defense did this 20 years ago because the military could not afford to repair older housing or build new housing. However, on many bases, these companies have done a terrible job of maintaining, repairing, cleaning, and removing pests from the housing they now manage. As a result, servicemembers are finding themselves living in substandard housing that is making them and their children ill.
It’s important to understand that—even though you live on federal property and your landlord is a government contractor—you still have the same tenant rights that everyone else in your state has. One of those rights is the right to housing that is habitable.
The Cost of Moving Out of Your Military Housing
What has unfortunately been happening at bases like Camp Pendleton in California is that families have had to move out of their base housing because their landlord has refused to remove hazards like mold and rodents, making the house unsafe to live in. Fearing for their safety, these families have spent thousands of dollars to move and have also lost security deposits or even been charged cleaning fees by their landlords. This is not only unacceptable—it is illegal. If you have reported the problem to your landlord and they have failed to fix it, rendering it uninhabitable, the landlord has broken their end of the lease. They have also violated federal law by constructively evicting you without a court order.
What Can You Do About it?
The sooner you call me, the more I will be able to help. If you have taken pictures of the conditions in your home and you have a record of the complaints you have filed with your landlord, we will be in a strong position to sue them to not only get your deposit returned, but for additional damages as well. Even if you don’t have solid documentation, do not hesitate to call me for help. No matter where you live, I will go to work protecting you right to livable housing. Contact me online and I will be in touch as soon as possible.
Can I sue my military base landlord if my housing conditions are unlivable?
Far too many of our men and women in uniform are finding themselves living in base housing that is in sub-standard condition. Not only are these servicemembers and their families dealing with houses that are in disrepair, but they are living with rodents, black mold, and peeling lead paint. If you are in this situation, you may have been told that as a member of the military, you can’t sue the military. However, on most military bases, including Camp Pendleton, housing is owned and managed by outside contractors, not the military. These landlords are subject to the same laws as any other property owner and, therefore, can be sued when they violate your rights.
State Tenants’ Rights Laws
Every state has tenants’ rights laws, and they all protect renters in pretty much the same way. The part of the law that applies in this situation is the right to a habitable residence. This means that the landlord is required to do whatever it takes to maintain your property in a safe and livable condition. If your house on Camp Pendleton has dangerous black mold in the vents, for example, your landlord—in this case, Lincoln Military Housing—must take measures to remove the mold. Simply cleaning and painting over it is not the same as mold remediation. If you have informed your landlord of the problem and given them adequate time to take care of it, you have the right to sue them if they fail to make your house habitable.
Constructive Eviction Under SCRA
As a servicemember, you are also protected under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA). One of the provisions of the law states that you cannot be evicted from your home without a court order. If you are forced to move your family out of military housing because rats, mold, or lead paint is making them ill, this is a form of eviction known as constructive eviction. If you sue your landlord under the SCRA and win, you can be released from your lease without penalty and you may also be owed damages.
Will Base Legal Help?
Despite the other valuable services base legal provides to you, this is one area where they will not be able to help. Because your landlord is a military contractor and the military can’t sue their own contractors, you will need to get outside legal help to sue your landlord under SCRA or state tenants’ rights laws.
As a Marine myself, I understand the sacrifices you are making to serve your country and I am committed to fighting back against housing contractors who refuse to ensure that members of our armed forces and their families have access to safe housing. If you are being blamed for the condition of your house or are looking to get out of a lease without penalty, contact me as soon as possible. I represent servicemembers in housing disputes across the country.