The legal system tries to protect victims of identity theft from lawsuits and debt collectors. But sometimes having the law on your side is not enough. When it is not, a San Diego identity theft victim attorney can help.
Identity theft is rampant in California
Identity theft involves the taking of personal information like a name, Social Security number, or financial account number for an unlawful purpose. Everyday people, business owners, well-known celebrities, and even children fall prey. In California, all forms of identity theft are crimes under Penal Code section 530.5 et. seq.
Identity theft does not discriminate. There were 12.7 million U.S. adult victims in 2014, or nearly one victim every 2.5 seconds. That figure represents 4% of U.S. adults, including over 1.5 million Californians. Identity theft often involves the use of personal information to open credit card accounts. This frequently becomes the subject of collections activity or legal action against the victim.
There are tools available for identity theft victims
The best way to combat identity theft is to diligently review your annual credit report and promptly report and address any unauthorized accounts.
A victim of identity theft should take the following precautions:
- Analyze your credit reports and place a “Fraud Alert” on the suspected accounts.
- File a police report, providing as much documented evidence as possible, to establish proof of the theft. It is unusual for the police to investigate in detail. But the information becomes a document that may be requested by creditors.
- Report the identity theft to the FTC.
- Contact the fraud department of each company where there was unauthorized activity and report the theft. Follow up in writing and ask for verification that the fraudulent activity/debts have been resolved.
- Cancel stolen credit card accounts and obtain new ones with 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.
- Change your driver’s license number or at the very least place a fraud alert with the DMV.
- 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.
Of particular importance is the Identity Theft Affidavit. Creditors and other entities attempting to collect upon an identity theft debt must cease their collections efforts and perform a reasonable investigation upon receipt of an affidavit from the victim.
In extreme cases, contact a San Diego identity theft victim attorney
It is not unheard of for someone to first become aware that they are a victim of identity theft through legal proceedings such as a lawsuit. In extreme cases, a judgment can be entered without notice due to a fraudulent proof of service of summons. In extreme cases, a consumer’s wages can be garnished or their bank account levied without any warning. In such an extreme but sadly not unheard of scenario, it makes sense to consult with an attorney.
If you have fallen prey to identity theft, you need to act quickly. An experienced San Diego identity theft victim attorney can safeguard your assets and assist in the resolution of an identity theft incident that has turned into a debt collection lawsuit or a judgment. The Jake A. Walton Law Firm is focused on resolving identity theft cases. Feel free to contact us; we are happy to speak with you.