Credit Identity Theft FAQs
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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Should I place a fraud alert on my credit report?
When your personal financial information has been compromised, you will want to do something to protect yourself. But what should you do? One easy step you can take is to place a fraud alert on your credit report.
What Is a Fraud Alert?
A fraud alert is simply a note on each of your credit reports—Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion—stating that you may have been a victim of identity theft. When a creditor or lender requests your credit reports to verify an application, they will see the alert and will be required to contact you directly to verify your identity. If the person applying for credit with your information is not you, the fraud alert will prevent them from being able to use your identity.
When You Should Issue a Fraud Alert
You don’t have to know for sure that you are the victim of identity theft in order to place a fraud alert on your credit reports. Some reasons you might want to take this step include:
- Your wallet or purse was stolen
- Your Social Security card is missing
- Your house has been robbed and financial documents are missing
- You have been informed that you may have been a victim of a data breach
With a fraud alert in place, you will be contacted before credit is approved, giving you an extra measure of protection if someone does indeed have access to your personal financial information. You only need to contact one of the three credit reporting agencies (CRA) and that agency will inform the other two. The alert will stay on your reports for a year and can be renewed after that if necessary.
When You Might Need a Credit Identity Theft Attorney
When your identity has been stolen, you may have false information on your credit reports. When you inform the CRAs about the theft, they have to take swift action. If they don’t, you may be able to sue for damages. The identity thief might also take loans out in your name and you could be harassed by debt collectors. Again, once you tell them about the theft, they have to stop contacting you. If they don’t, you can take legal action. In either of those situations, a California consumer attorney can help you protect your rights under federal law. If you are in one of these situations, please contact me online or call my office directly at 855.982.2400 and I will be in touch with you as soon as possible.
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.
Do I need to file a police report if I am filing an identity theft report with the FTC?
If someone has stolen your identity and taken out a loan or opened a credit card in your name, you have work to do. There’s no way around the fact that identity theft is a major pain, but if you don’t take the necessary steps to undo as much of the damage as you can right now, the pain could get even bigger. The first thing you should do to protect yourself from the problems the thief is going to cause in your name is to tell the authorities what has happened.
Report Identity Theft To The FTC
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) acts as a kind of clearinghouse for identity theft reports. When you go to their website at www.identitytheft.gov, you will be guided through a series of questions to report the theft. Once you have given them all the information you can, a report will be generated that can be offered as proof to any lender or business that disputes your claim of identity theft. You will also need the report when you file a police report.
Filing An Identity Theft Report With Local Law Enforcement
Most identity thieves steal the information they need “virtually,” meaning they get your bank account numbers or Social Security number through online sources, not out of your wallet. So why would you report the theft to the local police? After all, the thief is most likely not your neighbor—or even a resident of California or the U.S. The reason you file a police report is to create an official record of the theft even if you don’t expect the thief to be caught. At the local police station, you should be prepared to show them the following:
- A copy of your FTC Identity Theft Report (See? I said you would need it!)
- A government-issued photo ID
- Proof of your address (a mortgage statement or utility bill)
- Any proof you may have that a theft occurred (credit card statement, collection notices, etc.)
Your goal in reporting this to the police is not to get them to catch the thief, but to get a copy of the police report. Ask them to attach your FTC complaint to your report. You may have to be firm and insistent with the officer—but also calm and patient—because they may see it as a waste of their time.
Identity Theft Is Not a Waste of My Time!
If you’re getting nowhere with the FTC or the police, check out my identity theft toolkit to walk you through the steps to recovery. If you are being harassed by a lender or collection agency over debt that is not yours, you may be able to take legal action to stop them. If that’s the case, don’t wait any longer to call me. I will look into your situation and help if I can. The best part is, I will do all of this FOR FREE! If you are owed damages for harassment, I will file suit and take my payment only when I win on your behalf. Now is not the time to bury your head in the sand and hope this goes away. Take action today!
Contact me online or call me directly at 855.982.2400.
How do I get accounts opened by an identity thief off my credit report?
Not only do identity thieves steal your money, but they also steal your peace of mind and your financial reputation. When your personal information—Social Security number, bank account number, or password—has been stolen, you can quickly become overwhelmed by everything you need to do to fix it. Fortunately, you don’t have to despair. When accounts you did not open are on your credit reports, call me to help you take the necessary steps to get them removed. I will give you everything you need to take care of the problem and, best of all, I won’t charge you a thing!
What Can You Expect for Nothing? Identity Theft Credit Help!
You can’t get something for nothing, right? Wrong! When you fill out the form on this page, I will send you everything you need to inform creditors, debt collection agencies, and credit reporting agencies that your identity has been stolen and that they need to take action—all at no cost to you. How will this help? For starters, when you ask any one of the three national credit reporting agencies—Equifax, Experian, or TransUnion—to place a fraud alert on your account, they must all:
- Give you a copy of all the information in your file.
- Block any information in your file that resulted from identity theft, including unpaid accounts, lines of credit, or loans, so that anyone looking at your file—a potential creditor or employer, for example—cannot see the fraudulent information.
Hopefully, taking this first step will begin to make you feel more in control of a frightening situation. You can also expect a follow-up call from me to see if you have any questions or need additional assistance. I will evaluate your case for potential legal action and you will owe me nothing until and unless I do find grounds to file suit and I win damages for you.
Trust Me—Everything Will Be OK!
I know how painful it is to be the victim of identity theft. The stress and anxiety it causes can affect other areas of your life, including work, your social life, and your family. Don’t allow the actions of a thief to take over your life. Fill out my contact form and let’s get started fixing this problem now!
How do crooks get ahold of financial information?
As consumers get wise and security systems go high tech, identity thieves have had to step up their game—and have they ever! The lengths these crooks will go to get your sensitive financial information is almost unbelievable. What they are able to do with your data once they get it can have long-lasting repercussions for your credit score and your ability to get credit cards and loans in the future, so it’s well worth your time to learn how they work.
From Dumpster Diving to Skimming—If it’s There, They’ll Find it
Identity theft tactics run the gamut from digging through trash cans to hacking into corporate data systems. When you know what their methods are, you have a better chance of stopping them from getting your information. Some common tactics include:
- Stealing your mail. Think of the sensitive data you get through the mail—bank account numbers, tax forms with your Social Security number on them, confidential medical reports, and more. Thieves may take mail directly out of your mailbox or they may fill out a change of address form to redirect your mail to them. Sign up to get as much of this communication sent electronically as possible and be aware of when you should receive a statement so that you’ll know when you don’t get it.
- Going through the trash. Thieves can strike gold in garbage cans, Dumpsters, and recycling bins. Those same confidential forms you got in the mail can end up in the garbage and can easily be picked out by thieves. Always shred sensitive forms and statements.
- Stealing your wallet. Totally old school—but it still works. From your wallet, thieves can get your address, bank account numbers, credit cards, and even your SSN, if you carry your card with you (which you should NOT do!). Hold on to purses and carry wallets in a front pocket to protect yourself.
- Getting a copy of your credit report. It’s not too difficult for a thief to pose as a landlord or employer and request a copy of your credit report. Once they have that, they have everything they need to steal your identity. Check up on who has requested your credit report and follow up on anything suspicious.
- Phishing. If you get an email that asks you to reply with account numbers or directs you to a website to enter information, you should immediately be suspicious. Thieves will pose as eBay, PayPal, or a government agency to get this information from you. Don’t fall for it! Legitimate companies will never ask you to send them information they should already have.
- Corporate data breaches. When a store or institution that has your personal financial data is hacked, you are at risk for identity theft. This seems to be happening more and more and there’s not much you can do other than follow the news and freeze your credit when it happens to you.
While you should do everything you can to protect your personal financial information, you are not to blame if a thief gets your information and opens accounts in your name. When that happens, don’t waste any time taking action. Contact me online for FREE help undoing the harm that has been done. If there is legal action to be taken—like against the credit reporting agency that gave your credit report to a thief—I’ll help you take it! You can also call 415.802.0137 to speak with me directly.
I am the victim of identity theft. How do I fix my credit report?
One unfortunate reality of our digital society is that no one is safe from identity theft. Your vital stats are out there, just waiting to be mined by an identity predator. The faster you catch it, though, the better off you will be. One key way to find out if you are a victim is to check your credit report on a regular basis. Do I sound like a broken record yet? If credit card accounts have been opened or loans have been taken out in your name, they will appear on your credit reports, and the sooner you see it, the better.
You Caught the Fraud, Now What?
The first thing you need to do is prevent the thief from opening any more accounts in your name and stop the credit reporting agencies (CRA) from releasing your credit report to anyone until you get it fixed. To do this, take the following steps:
- Place an initial fraud alert on your credit report. Simply call any one of the three CRAs—Equifax, Experian, or TransUnion—and ask for an initial fraud alert. The company you call must inform the other two CRAs of the alert. The alert will remain for 90 days and can be renewed after that. With a fraud alert on your reports, a creditor or lender will be required to confirm your identity before issuing credit.
- Freeze your credit reports. Ordinarily, CRAs will send credit reports to almost anyone who asks, but when you place a security freeze on your account, they will have to check with you first. There may be a fee for this, depending on the situation.
You can knock these two things off your to-do list in less than half an hour after you discover the fraud on your report. However, your identity is still stolen and you’ll need to take further action to actually undo whatever the thief has done to your credit report.
- Complete the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Identity Theft Affidavit. The FTC has a widely accepted affidavit for identity theft. It's absolutely necessary in order to remove Identity Theft related mistakes from your credit report and to release you from liability for those debts. I will send you the FTC ID Theft Affidavit plus some critical instructions by email for Free.
- File a police report. Identity theft is a crime and should be reported to the police. Although local police are rarely successful at tracking down identity thieves—if they are even willing to try—having a police report on file (get a copy of it) is CRITICAL to removing the fraudulent information from your credit report.
- Contact the creditors and lenders directly. Call the companies that are fraudulently on your credit report due to the theft. Send them your completed FTC ID Theft Affidavit AND the Police Report and make a request—in writing—that they remove the accounts from your credit reports. Make every request and every follow-up in writing and keep copies of everything.
When You Need a Credit Protection Lawyer
If you are having trouble getting mistaken or fraudulent information removed from your credit reports—no matter how it got there—you may be able to take legal action. Contact me online or call me directly at 855.982.2400 today. If I can help—I will!