How an Identity Theft Attorney Helps Fraud Victims

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Reviewed by: Attorney Daniel Schlanger, Managing Partner

Written by: Schlanger Law Group

April 8, 2024

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If your identity was stolen you may be facing a drained bank account, unauthorized credit card charges, credit reporting issues and a tarnished financial reputation. These financial setbacks can affect you for years to come.  Unfortunately, it is challenging to find identity thieves and build a solid case against them. Even if the thief is caught and found guilty, you may not recover your money. The funds may have disappeared by the time the case is resolved. That being said, there are laws that can protect you from the financial damages of identity theft even if you are unable to catch or recover lost finances from the identity thief.  

An identity theft lawyer uses federal consumer protection laws  to help victims of identity theft recover their financial life. Depending on an individual victims’ circumstances, these laws can even help a victim of identity theft reverse credit card charges, recover funds electronically stolen from the bank, correct credit reports, and restore their financial reputation. This is regardless of whether or not the identity thief has been caught. 

An identity theft attorney can help you understand what are your rights and remedies under federal law and how to leverage these consumer protection laws to recover your financial good standing.

What is Identity Theft and How Does it Happen?

Identity theft  occurs when someone steals your personal information such as your Social Security number, date of birth, address, credit card information, or password for unlawful purposes. They may purchase items using your credit card, transfer money from your bank account, or take out loans that they will never pay back. Identity fraud comes in many shapes and forms, and no one is completely safe. All consumers should remain vigilant about how to detect identity theft and minimize its impact.

If you suspect you are a victim of identity it’s important to take swift action. You can click on this dropdown below to learn about the first steps you can take to protect yourself or read our guide here

When you realize your identity has been stolen there are some basic steps you can take to protect yourself financially from further damages. Of course, depending on your specific circumstances, some of the following suggestions may not apply to you:

  • Report the identity theft to the Federal Trade Commission
  • File a local police report

Credit Report Problems: If you find credit report errors such as accounts you don’t recognize, debts you didn’t incur, or someone else’s information in your credit report:

  • Contact the three major credit reporting agencies (CRAs) to notify them about your stolen identity. Reach out to Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion directly to request a copy of your report. Or go to annualcreditreport.com to request all three reports.
  • Place a fraud alert in your reports.
  • Dispute any unfamiliar, unauthorized, or inaccurate information in writing with supporting documents. Keep a copy of anything you send and mail your dispute by certified mail with a Return Receipt Requested.
  • Ask the CRAs to block any information related to identity theft.
  • Require any creditors to contact you before opening any new lines of credit.

Credit Card or Other Creditor Charges: If you discover charges in your credit card statement that you didn’t authorize, loans that you didn’t apply for, or utility bills for locations you’ve never lived in:

  • Contact each of your credit accounts such as credit card companies, cable TV, cell phone provider, and other utility providers.
  • Report the identity theft to each creditor, even if that account has not been affected. Close each account that has been compromised. Request a fraud alert on every open account.
  • Ask that any unauthorized charges be removed from your accounts and credit reports.
  • Change your passwords, PINs, or other identifying information on accounts left open.
  • Always follow up in writing. Complete and supply an FTC Identity Theft Affidavit, to report new, unauthorized accounts that were opened with your stolen information.
  • Keep track of every conversation you have related to your identity fraud. Follow up every phone call with a written confirmation letter and include documents that prove your claim.

Bank Account Problems: If your personal bank account balance unexpectedly drops, you find transactions or large withdrawals that you didn’t authorize, or ATM transfers you didn’t make:

  • Review all bank and other financial institution account statements.
  • Immediately notify the bank about any unfamiliar or unauthorized transactions by phone.
  • Follow up in writing as soon as possible with copies of your statement (indicate which transactions are disputed) and any supporting documentation of the theft.
  • Keep copies of all correspondence, and record the date of any phone calls, who you spoke with, and what was discussed. Include any next steps to take.
  • Change your passwords, PINs, etc.

Regardless of which accounts were affected or how the ID theft occurred, these additional steps will also protect you. These steps can build a foundation to help prove what happened in case you need to take legal action in the future.

Keep copies of everything you send to creditors, banks, or credit reporting agencies. Mail all disputes and related information by certified mail with a return receipt requested.
Regularly review your statements, reports, and bills to ensure the ID thief doesn’t strike again.

If you need to work with an identity theft attorney, your success may depend on the first actions you take and the records you keep from the moment you realize what has happened.

When you realize your identity has been stolen there are some basic steps you can take to protect yourself financially from further damages. Of course, depending on your specific circumstances, some of the following suggestions may not apply to you:

  • Report the identity theft to the Federal Trade Commission
  • File a local police report

Credit Report Problems: If you find credit report errors such as accounts you don’t recognize, debts you didn’t incur, or someone else’s information in your credit report:

  • Contact the three major credit reporting agencies (CRAs) to notify them about your stolen identity. Reach out to Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion directly to request a copy of your report. Or go to annualcreditreport.com to request all three reports.
  • Place a fraud alert in your reports.
  • Dispute any unfamiliar, unauthorized, or inaccurate information in writing with supporting documents. Keep a copy of anything you send and mail your dispute by certified mail with a Return Receipt Requested.
  • Ask the CRAs to block any information related to identity theft.
  • Require any creditors to contact you before opening any new lines of credit.

Credit Card or Other Creditor Charges: If you discover charges in your credit card statement that you didn’t authorize, loans that you didn’t apply for, or utility bills for locations you’ve never lived in:

  • Contact each of your credit accounts such as credit card companies, cable TV, cell phone provider, and other utility providers.
  • Report the identity theft to each creditor, even if that account has not been affected. Close each account that has been compromised. Request a fraud alert on every open account.
  • Ask that any unauthorized charges be removed from your accounts and credit reports.
  • Change your passwords, PINs, or other identifying information on accounts left open.
  • Always follow up in writing. Complete and supply an FTC Identity Theft Affidavit, to report new, unauthorized accounts that were opened with your stolen information.
  • Keep track of every conversation you have related to your identity fraud. Follow up every phone call with a written confirmation letter and include documents that prove your claim.

Bank Account Problems: If your personal bank account balance unexpectedly drops, you find transactions or large withdrawals that you didn’t authorize, or ATM transfers you didn’t make:

  • Review all bank and other financial institution account statements.
  • Immediately notify the bank about any unfamiliar or unauthorized transactions by phone.
  • Follow up in writing as soon as possible with copies of your statement (indicate which transactions are disputed) and any supporting documentation of the theft.
  • Keep copies of all correspondence, and record the date of any phone calls, who you spoke with, and what was discussed. Include any next steps to take.
  • Change your passwords, PINs, etc.

Regardless of which accounts were affected or how the ID theft occurred, these additional steps will also protect you. These steps can build a foundation to help prove what happened in case you need to take legal action in the future.

Keep copies of everything you send to creditors, banks, or credit reporting agencies. Mail all disputes and related information by certified mail with a return receipt requested.
Regularly review your statements, reports, and bills to ensure the ID thief doesn’t strike again.

If you need to work with an identity theft attorney, your success may depend on the first actions you take and the records you keep from the moment you realize what has happened.

An Identity Theft Lawyer Can Help You Navigate The Fraud Recovery System

Javelin Strategy & Research’s 2023 Identity Fraud Study reveals that in 2022, losses to identity fraud amounted to $20 Billion and affected over 15.4 million Americans. 

The aftermath of such thefts proved further challenging for the victims. When attempting to report the thefts to their banks, credit card companies, or other financial entities, more than two-thirds expressed dissatisfaction with the outcomes. The prolonged process of resolving an identity fraud case, which can span years, leads to some individuals abandoning the effort altogether. 

An identity theft lawyer can help when financial institutions, creditors, or credit reporting agencies don’t follow the laws that protect identity theft victims. At Schlanger Law Group, we will communicate with the businesses that are refusing to follow the law on your behalf. If needed, we will bring legal action to protect your rights, enforce the law and win you financial justice.

Federal Laws that Protect Identity Theft Victims

Since each Identity fraud victim’s ordeal is different, not all federal acts apply to every case. The following four Acts commonly come into play in identity fraud situations:

  • The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) – When ID fraud-related information is added to your credit reports, you have the right to dispute the information. The credit reporting agencies are required to conduct a reasonable investigation.  Too often, however, the credit bureaus deny claims without doing the required investigation.  This violates federal law.  If damaging identity theft credit information remains in your report, you might be denied a loan, a credit card, an apartment, or even a job.
 
  • The Fair Credit Billing Act (FCBA) – If the identity thief accessed your credit card accounts and made unauthorized charges, this Act, as well as certain provisions of the Truth In Lending Act (TILA), can help straighten out your accounts. The FCBA and TILA allow you to dispute fraudulent charges with the card issuer.   So long as you dispute the unauthorized charges timely, they should be removed from your account, and you should have no responsibility to pay them. If the charges are not removed, you may face collection actions and credit reporting problems.
 
  • The Electronic Funds Transfer Act (EFTA) – This Act applies to unauthorized electronic transfers in your personal financial accounts, e.g. your bank accounts and your Zelle, PayPal or other “P2P” accounts. It is important to act quickly under this law because the sooner you dispute the unauthorized transfers the more protection you receive. Depending on what happened and when you notify your bank, this law requires the bank to return all or some of the stolen money.
 
  • The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) – If an identity thief incurs debt in your name and doesn’t pay the debt, the account could end up in collections. The collection agency may try to make you pay for the fraudulent debt if you are unable to resolve it with the creditor. This law prohibits agencies from using harassing, deceptive, abusive, or unfair tactics while collecting debts, and prohibits collecting debts that are not owed by the consumer.

Legal Rights and Remedies an Identity Theft Lawyer Can Help You Exercise

Identity theft attorneys  understand these laws and how they apply to your circumstances. They can explain which laws protect you and what remedies are available in your case. Potential civil liability will vary depending on the facts involved in your case.

  •  A credit card company will often be responsible for unauthorized charges, even if their belief that it was authorized was reasonable at the time
 
  • Banks are often responsible for unauthorized debit card, ACH or other online charges, but instead try to argue that the theft occurred because you “failed to protect your personal information” (which is not a valid reason for denial under the applicable statute).

     

  • A credit reporting agency may simply rubber stamp the lender’s denial, rather than conducting a bona fide investigation based on the facts and documents you have provided.
 

Because identity fraud can impact so many aspects of your life, there may be several possible legal actions available against different entities. Again, depending on your unique situation, you may be entitled to:

  • The return of unauthorized bank transfers

  • A chargeback of unauthorized credit card charges

  • Correction of your credit reports including removal of fraudulent entries
  • Money damages often fall into one of several categories:

    • Out-of-Pocket Damages – Your out-of-pocket expenses related to the id theft, including not only amounts stolen from you but also compensation for the damage done to your credit (e.g. higher interest rates, lost loan opportunities, etc.); lost work time, and other economic harms.

    • Emotional Damages – Identity theft can cause tremendous stress, anxiety, depression and other mental health issues. So long as these damages can be proven, they are generally compensable.

  • Punitive and/or treble damages that are intended to punish the wrongdoer if their actions are intentional, reckless, in bad faith or part of a larger policy and practice of misconduct.

  • Payment of your attorney’s fees and legal costs.

What Information Will Your Identity Theft Lawyer Need from You?

To help your attorney build the best case on your behalf, a good identity theft lawyer will typically ask you to gather and provide:

  • Documents regarding the accounts that are involved in the theft. These include bank statements, credit card statements, debt collection notices, and credit reports.
 
  • Documents related to your identity theft. Proof of your bank account history, your credit history (showing an absence of large charges or withdrawals in the past) travel or work schedules (to show you were not in the location where the theft occurred), or other evidence to support a claim of ID fraud.
 
  • A complete explanation of when you discovered the theft and what steps you have taken to address it so far. Little details matter and may improve your chances of success.
 
  • A list of specific questions about your situation to ensure you have all the information you need to make the best decisions possible.

When You Need an Identity Theft Attorney, Trust Your Financial Recovery to Schlanger Law Group

Recovering stolen money and repairing the damage caused by identity fraud can be overwhelming. When you don’t know where to turn, we are here for you. Identity theft is one of our core practice areas and we have successfully advocated on behalf of victims since 2007. 

Together we will create the best strategy for your needs, and we’ll keep you involved every step of the way. When you work with an identity theft attorney at Schlanger Law Group, you can rest assured that we will work tirelessly to ensure your rights are fully protected. Call (212) 500-6114 or click on the green button below to schedule your no-obligation, no-cost consultation now.

Schlanger Law Group LLP serves clients in New Jersey, New York, and throughout the United States with consumer protection, class action, credit reporting, and identity theft issues.