Identity theft is something that no one believes will happen to them, yet millions of Americans are victims of identity theft each year. If your identity is stolen, it is important to act quickly, take basic steps to protect yourself, and maximize your chance of getting reimbursed for stolen funds. While hiring an attorney is not necessary in every case, a qualified consumer protection attorney familiar with the laws protecting victims of identity theft can be critical in instances where banks, credit card companies, and credit reporting agencies avoid their obligations to victims and fail to do the right thing.
What is Identity Theft?
When someone steals your personal information to commit fraud, it is called identity theft. This can occur in a variety of ways, but all can be harmful to you, your savings, finances, and credit. Some of the most common forms of identity theft are bank accounts or credit cards being opened in your name, or your existing financial accounts being hacked and drained. Identity thieves can do this by accessing personal information such as bank PINs, Social Security numbers, birthdates, and addresses. While some identity theft is committed by strangers, identity theft can also be committed by family members or significant others (or ex-partners) that have access to your personal information.
Who Can Help?
In many instances, identity theft can be successfully handled by taking basic steps to re-secure your accounts and notify creditors of the problem. The Federal Trade Commission has provided useful guidance that can help consumers on these sorts of actions.
Unfortunately, banks and other creditors sometimes refuse to honor their obligations, even when they are notified promptly of the theft. There are several federal consumer protection statutes that protect victims against unauthorized transfers and loans, and credit back stolen funds, such as the Electronic Funds Transfer Act, the Fair Credit Billing Act, the Truth in Lending Act.
Similarly, Experian, Trans Union, Equifax, LexisNexis and others often refuse to remove inaccurate credit information relating to identity thefts. However, by failing to remove inaccurate information, these agencies are in violation of the Fair Credit Reporting Act, which requires that the credit reporting agencies conduct a reasonable investigation of all disputed accounts.
In these instances, a victim of identity theft should find a lawyer whose practice focuses on protecting consumers from identity theft and inaccurate reporting. A skilled consumer protection lawyer with experience in this particular area can help the consumer hold the banks and credit reporting responsible, and will often be able to represent the victim on a contingent basis.
Finding an Identity Theft Lawyer
When looking for a lawyer to represent you in a case of identity theft, be sure to do the following:
- Gather all documentation of your identity theft, including evidence of the charges, your disputes, and the responses you have received from creditors and/or credit reporting agencies. When you contact lawyers, they will likely ask to see this kind if information in order to better understand your situation.
- Look for consumer protection lawyers that has experience bringing suits against banks and credit reporting agencies under federal consumer protection statutes. Be sure to find a lawyer that represents the victim, not someone being accused of stealing a person’s identity. Also be sure to avoid bankruptcy lawyers as it would not make sense for a victim of identity theft to file bankruptcy in order to address fraudulent charges.
- Look for a lawyer who has experience in federal statues protecting victims. Most key statues in this area are federal, so you will need a lawyer with appropriate experience.
- Look for a lawyer with a good reputation amongst their peers and clients.
- Ask about the process, timeline, and expected resolution date.
- Ask about cost and services. Many lawyers focused in this area of law, including Schlanger Law Group, represent victims of identity theft on a contingent basis. This means that the lawyer will only get paid when they win your case. Then, they will be paid out of the money recovered in the lawsuit.
The Identity Theft Lawyer for You
If you experience identity theft and it is not handled promptly, diligently, and with skill, then identity theft can be catastrophic to your finances and personal life. This is particularly true if creditors and credit reporting agencies do not respond quickly and favorably when they are notified that identity theft has occurred. Finding skilled, zealous counsel can be critically important. Schlanger Law Group has extensive experience in protecting consumers from a variety of forms of identity theft. If you are a victim of identity theft, contact Schlanger Law Group.