In this modern age of technology, there are countless ways for a thief to run up debt in your name. Without actually taking your credit card out of your wallet—although he could do that too!—a thief can charge thousands of dollars in your name and get away scot-free. When this happens, what rights do you have? Do you really have to pay the credit card bill when you’re not responsible for the charges? Fortunately, no—you don’t. But you must be vigilant and take several steps to exercise these protections.
What the Fair Credit Billing Act Says
Enacted in 1974, the Fair Credit Billing Act (FCBA) protects consumers from a variety of unfair billing practices by creditors, including giving you a right to dispute charges on your credit card. In order to identify unauthorized charges, you must be careful about reviewing your bill each month. If you find charges on your bill that you believe were made by an identity thief, you should take the following steps:
- For an unauthorized charge over $50, you have 60 days from the day you receive your credit card statement to dispute the charge in writing with your credit card issuer.
- The credit card issuer has 30 days to acknowledge receipt of the complaint and two billing cycles to investigate, during which time the issuer cannot attempt to collect payment, charge interest on the purchase, or report you to the credit bureaus.
- If the issuer finds the charge to be invalid, they must correct the error and refund any fees that resulted from it. If they find the charges to be valid, they must inform you of their findings. You then have ten days to challenge their findings.
If your credit card issuer fails to take the required actions, you can file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission, and you may also be able to sue the creditor for violation of the FCBA. If you win, you may be awarded damages, plus twice the amount of any finance charge. The court also may order the creditor to pay your attorney's fees and costs.
How a California Consumer Attorney Can Help
While it takes some effort, you can usually remedy these situations with your credit card issuer on your own. However, if the issuer is refusing to cooperate, you may want to consult an attorney for advice. Contact the Cardoza Law Corporation by filling out online form or call Mike Cardoza at 855.982.2400. I will get back to you as soon as I can to let you know what your next steps should be. You do not have to stand for mistreatment by creditors when you are the victim of identity theft!