“Identity theft” brings to mind credit card skimmers, hackers, massive data breaches, and even criminals rummaging through your garbage looking for identifying information and credit card numbers. While those are all very real threats, some dangers lie closer to home. In one recent year, more than 500,000 people in the United States fell victim to identity theft at the hands of friends and family.
When someone close to you steals your identity, you may face special difficulties in cleaning up the record. First, if the person who stole your identity is a close family member, romantic partner, or friend, he or she may divert you or discourage you from taking red flags seriously, delaying discovery of the theft. Then, because “insider” identity thieves have access to more extensive information and may even use your computer or mobile device, creditors and credit reporting agencies may be more skeptical about the theft. Finally, they may take the position that identity theft committed by your adult child, ex-spouse or significant other isn’t their problem—even though that’s not what the law says.
If your identity has been stolen by someone close to you and you’ve been unable to get charges reversed or fraudulent balances and accounts removed from your credit report, don’t despair.
The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) Protects Victims of Identity Theft
Both the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) and the New York Fair Credit Reporting Act (NY FCRA) impose certain obligations on credit reporting agencies, intended to ensure the accuracy of consumer credit reports. These obligations include prompt investigation or reinvestigation of disputed items, and timely removal of items found to be in error or which cannot be verified.
The federal statute also imposes similar obligations upon those who furnish information to credit reporting agencies.
Both consumer financial protection statutes provide for damages when these obligations aren’t met. In other words, a victim of identity theft may be entitled to monetary compensation if a credit reporting agency or furnisher of information fails or refuses to investigate disputed items and make appropriate corrections.
Schlanger Law Group (SLG) Pursues Damages on Behalf of Identity Theft Victim
Earlier this month, Schlanger Law Group filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of a woman whose identity was stolen by her then-boyfriend. During the relationship, the complaint alleges, the boyfriend took advantage of his access to the victim’s personal information, mail, and credit cards to incur tens of thousands of dollars in unauthorized charges. In addition to credit card purchases, those charges included the purchase of a motor vehicle and automobile insurance.
The victim filed a police report, and an arrest warrant was issued. Subsequently, she repeatedly disputed the various items with both the creditors (furnishers) and the credit reporting agencies, without relief.
SLG is pursuing actual and statutory damages, punitive damages, injunctive relief and attorney’s fees on behalf of the victim. Defendants include all three major credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion), American Honda Finance Corporation, Barclays Bank Delaware, Chase Bank USA, N.A., Discover Bank, DFS Services LLC (d/b/a Discover Network), and PNC Bank, National Association.
The case is Sarah B. Jarnicki v. Equifax Information Services LLC, et al, filed I the US. District Court for the Southern District of New York.
Creditors and Credit Reporting Agencies Don’t Have the Final Say
If you’ve fallen victim to identity theft, or are simply trying to correct an erroneous entry on your credit report, don’t take the creditor’s or credit reporting agency’s initial denial or failure to act as a final ruling. Both the credit reporting agencies and the furnishers have very specific legal obligations, and they can be compelled to comply with those obligations—and, in some cases, to pay damages.
If you’ve disputed items on your credit report without success, even though you know them to be inaccurate or the result of identity theft, call 212-500-6114 or fill out the contact form on this site to learn more about how we can help.