How an Identity Theft Attorney Helps ID Fraud Victims
Chances are good that you or someone you know has been impacted by identity theft. According to the Federal Trade Commission, more than 1.4 million people were victimized by ID theft in 2021. Sadly, that number skyrocketed from 650,000 identity fraud cases in only two years. If you are a victim of ID fraud, you may need to work with an identity theft attorney to protect your financial future.
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, PIN, 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.
Because identity thieves are creative, there are many ways your information can be stolen. For example:
- A thief may look over your shoulder while you use an ATM and steal your PIN,
- Someone might take your mail or search through your garbage for credit card offers, account statements, or other documents that contain personal information,
- When you pay at the pump at your local gas station, a card skimmer may record your card number and PIN,
- Your cell phone company may suffer a data breach, or
- A purse snatcher or pickpocket might physically take your wallet containing your valuable information.
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 are an identity theft victim, you may be able to resolve the situation on your own. Start by working with your bank, credit card companies, and the credit reporting agencies that track and report your credit history. We created a step-by-step checklist to guide you through the initial stages of disputing ID fraud-related issues.
If all goes well, you won’t need the services of an identity theft attorney. However, you may face creditors and financial institutions that refuse to address your identity theft issues and return your money. When you reach a dead end, Schlanger Law Group is here to help.
The Difference Between a Consumer Identity Theft Attorney and a Criminal ID Theft Prosecutor
If your identity was stolen you may be facing an empty bank account, unauthorized credit card charges, and credit reporting issues among other problems. These financial complications can affect you for years to come. You may think the only way to get your money back and clear your credit history is to find the thief and make him pay.
The Role of a Criminal Prosecutor
Identity theft is a crime in every US state. State crimes are prosecuted by government attorneys such as Attorney Generals, District Attorneys, or State’s Attorneys. Unfortunately, it is challenging to find identity thieves and build a solid case against them. If ID fraud happens online, the criminals usually remain anonymous, and they are difficult to prosecute.
If you know your ID thief, a criminal prosecutor may be able to bring a case on your behalf. However, even if the thief is found guilty, you may not recover your money. The funds may have disappeared by the time the case is resolved.
A Consumer Identity Theft Attorney – the Better Option
Several federal laws protect ID fraud victims. If you are a victim, these laws provide various remedies to refund your stolen money, correct and restore your credit history, remove unauthorized credit card charges, and more. However, not all lawyers understand these laws and how to use them to protect consumers.
At Schlanger Law Group, identity theft is one of our core practice areas. We help ID theft victims in New York, New Jersey, and across the nation. Based on our vast experience we have earned a stellar reputation in the local and nationwide legal communities as ID theft victim advocates. Our team is dedicated and passionate about representing consumers like you who face companies that don’t follow the law.
What to do Before Contacting an Identity Theft Attorney
When you realize your identity has been stolen, your first inclination may be to call an ID theft lawyer immediately. However, you may not need to take that step just yet. You may be able to resolve your issue with a few phone calls or written disputes to the right companies.
Before contacting a lawyer, you should take the following steps to see if you can resolve your ID theft issues on your own. Of course, depending on your specific circumstances, some of the following situations may not apply to you.
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 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.
General Tips for ID theft victims: 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.
- Report the id theft to FTC at gov
- File a local police report,
- Change your passwords, PINs, and other login details for all accounts.
- Shred any paper documents that contain personal information before throwing them away.
- 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.
The Right Time to Contact an Identity Theft Attorney
Hopefully, when you contact the businesses that were impacted by your ID theft, they will follow the law and work with you to repair the damage. However, some companies may refuse to investigate your dispute. Others may not refund your stolen money. Your credit card company may leave unauthorized charges on your account. Or a credit reporting agency won’t correct your credit report. Some companies may just ignore you.
If you have reached a dead end or you’re tired of running in circles, it’s time to gather your information and join forces with a respected and successful identity theft attorney. At Schlanger Law Group we offer free case consultations. When you contact us for help, you won’t pay to discuss your circumstances and learn about your legal rights. Also, depending on your case, you may not have to pay attorney’s fees or costs to resolve your case. We’ll let you know when we meet.
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. You can also request the credit reporting agencies remove the fraudulent information or at least block it from your report so future creditors cannot see it. 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 your identity thief accessed your credit card accounts and made unauthorized charges, this Act can help straighten out your accounts. The FCBA allows you to dispute fraudulent charges with the card issuer within a certain timeframe. The charges 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. 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, it 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.
As experienced identity theft attorneys, we understand these laws and how they apply to your circumstances. We can explain which laws protect you and what remedies are available in your case. We will deal with the businesses that are refusing to follow the law on your behalf. If needed, we will bring legal action to protect your rights and enforce the law
So, What Can an Identity Theft Attorney do for You?
As mentioned above, bringing action against the thief who stole your information and your money is usually not possible. Instead, identity theft lawyers can help when financial institutions, creditors, or credit reporting agencies don’t follow the laws that protect victims like you. We fight to repair your credit reputation, return stolen funds, and restore your peace of mind.
We may be able to help recover your stolen funds, correct your credit report, and restore your financial reputation when you reach an impasse with creditors, banks, and credit reporting agencies.
What Information Will Your Identity Theft Lawyer Need from You?
To help your attorney build the best case on your behalf, gather and provide:
- Proof of your identity and personal information such as a photo ID card, proof of address (a mortgage statement or utility bill will work), your Social Security number, and your date of birth.
- 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.
Remedies an id theft attorney can request on your behalf
Potential civil liability will vary depending on the facts involved in your case. A corporation could be held liable for a data breach that exposed your personal information to criminals. A credit card company may be responsible for allowing an unusual charge that should have been flagged and confirmed. Or a bank might have violated the law by allowing a large withdrawal without contacting you first.
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 fall into two categories. Compensatory damages are your out-of-pocket expenses related to the id theft. While emotional damages are personal and more difficult to value. Some examples include payment for a company’s negligence, invasion of privacy, publication of private facts, breach of fiduciary duty, infliction of emotional distress, breach of contract, lost time and wages, loss of credit opportunity, damage to your reputation, and more,
- Punitive damages that are intended to punish the wrongdoer if their actions are intentional or reckless,
- Injunctive relief which may be a declaration that you do not owe certain debts and you are released from any responsibility to pay them, and
- Payment of your attorney’s fees and legal costs.
When You Need an Identity Theft Attorney, Trust Your Financial Future to Schlanger Law Group
Recovering stolen money and repairing the damage caused by identity fraud can be overwhelming for most victims. 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. Don’t wait any longer. 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.