Helping Identity Theft Victims in New Jersey, New York, and Nationwide
For most people, the words, “Identity Theft” cause concern, confusion, or even fear. You may be reading this because you or someone you know is a victim of ID theft. If your personal information was stolen by a scammer, it’s common to feel violated or scared. But you are not alone.
ID fraud is growing every year. At this point, the question is no longer IF you will face ID theft, but WHEN. So, it’s important to understand how it might happen to you and what you can do to minimize the damage.
In a best-case scenario, you’ll be frustrated about how much time it takes to protect your accounts and recover your money. In the worst case, your life savings disappear, your credit cards are maxed out, you find unauthorized loans or credit cards in your name, and your credit history is severely damaged.
At Schlanger Law Group we understand the devastation innocent ID theft victims face every day. We regularly help victims repair their financial lives, restore lost money and accounts, and regain peace of mind after being victimized by ID fraud.
How Common is Identity Theft?
Identity theft (also known as identity fraud) is a widespread and growing problem. According to Javelin Strategy & Research’s 2021 Identity Fraud Report, almost 50 million consumers were victims of ID thefts in 2020. But the problems don’t end there. When the victims reported the theft to their banks, credit card companies, or other financial institutions, over two-thirds of the victims were unhappy with the results they received. Sadly, because it can take years to resolve an identity fraud case, some victims simply give up.
According to a recent AARP report, identity fraud victims lost $52 billion in 2021 and spent millions of hours trying to resolve the related problems. As industry leaders in ID theft cases, we understand. We’ve seen our clients’ frustration and disappointment and we know how to help.
Federal laws protect victims of identity theft, but these cases are complex. Many lawyers simply do not have the knowledge and experience necessary to handle an ID theft case. The attorneys at Schlanger Law Group LLP have extensive experience litigating consumer protection matters, and we are passionate about identity fraud cases. If you are an ID victim struggling with companies that don’t seem to care, help is available.
Starting with the Basics: What is Identity Theft?
Identity theft happens when someone fraudulently uses another person’s identity. The thief may be a total stranger that hacks into a database or a pickpocket that steals your purse or wallet. Other cases involve family members or people that the victim personally knows and formerly trusted. Regardless of the relationship, when someone steals your personal information and uses it without your authority… you are an ID theft victim.
Common ID theft activities include:
- Opening new credit card accounts or loans using your personal information,
- Capturing credit or debit card information to make purchases or withdraw cash from your accounts,
- Medical identity theft where someone uses your information to obtain medical care or benefits,
- Tax ID theft happens when someone files a tax return using your Social Security number to steal your refund or tax benefits, and
- Gaining access to your financial accounts to withdraw cash or transfer funds.
If you believe your personal information has been stolen, you should act as soon as possible to reduce your losses and protect your legal rights. If you reach a dead-end or don’t know where to turn, contact an identity theft attorney for help.
How Can ID Theft Happen?
Thieves are constantly inventing new ways to steal your identity. As security measures evolve, these criminals become more resourceful and find new ways to get your personal information.
You probably know your personal data can be stolen when there is a data system breach at a company that holds your information. Likewise, you may have heard stories about skimmer machines attached to ATMs and gas pumps that capture credit and debit card information directly from your card when you insert it. But there are many more ways you can be swindled.
For example, a thief may:
- Send fake emails (phishing) or text messages (smishing) asking for personal data or requesting you click a link that installs malware on your device,
- Use old-school techniques like shoulder surfing while you are using an ATM,
- Pretend to be a Friendly Samaritan willing to help with your transaction who then steals your debit card,
- Buy your stolen information on the Dark Web after a data breach, or
- “Spoof” you into disclosing information by posing as your bank or credit card representative who’s calling to help fix a problem in your account.
Sadly, you may be surprised to learn that many cases of identity theft involve trusted friends and family members. With easy access to personal information, a bitter ex-spouse may rack up credit card debt in their ex’s name. Or a struggling parent facing financial troubles might use their child’s information to open an account for utilities or to borrow money for rent.
How to Help Protect Your Personal Information from Identity Thieves
Early discovery is the most powerful way to protect yourself from extensive ID theft losses. If you realize your identity has been stolen shortly after it happens, your chances of containing the problem and avoiding severe damage are much better.
Did you know that consumers who are extremely cautious about disclosing their personal information online have a greater risk of being an ID theft victim? Ironically, those who prefer to do business and shop offline usually take the longest amount of time to discover ID theft. This is because they may not check their accounts other than reviewing their monthly statements.
Studies have shown that people who avoid e-commerce transactions, online banking, social networking, and other “risky” behaviors take an average of 40 days to realize their identities have been stolen. On the other hand, 78% of online shoppers notice suspicious activity within a week.
How to Protect from Becoming an Identity Fraud Victim
Whether you prefer traditional paper transactions or online shopping, your personal information is vulnerable. Follow these steps to keep your important details from falling into the wrong hands:
- Online: be careful about which websites you trust to enter your credit card information. Don’t volunteer personal details like your date of birth or Social Security number unless you know the person or website is legitimate. Offline: shred any paper statements that include financial information before throwing them away.
- Monitor your bank and credit card statements for suspicious activity at least monthly. If you check more often, you will catch problems sooner. Immediately contact your bank and card issuer when you find an error or unauthorized transaction.
- Regularly review your credit reports. You can request a free credit report from each of the three major credit reporting agencies every 12 months on their websites: Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax. Or you can go to AnnualCreditReport.com to request multiple reports.
- Tip: If you don’t suspect any problems, stagger your credit report requests throughout the year rather than requesting all three reports together. You may quickly discover a problem by reviewing a different report every four months instead of looking at all three reports once a year at the same time.
- Immediately investigate and dispute any suspicious information.
- If you find a problem in your bank statement—contact the bank directly.
- If you find an unfamiliar credit card charge—contact the card issuer.
- If you discover errors in your credit report—contact the credit reporting agency that created the report, NOT the entity that reported the information.
- Consider placing a fraud alert on your accounts and credit report to notify anyone who requests your credit history that you suspect ID theft.
- Protect the computers and mobile devices you use for personal or financial business. Use strong passwords, authentication apps, or ID theft software.
- Be aware of popular scams. Never give your bank account or credit card information to a stranger who telephones or emails you.
Several Consumer Protection Laws Apply to ID Theft Situations
Identity theft victims may struggle for years to recover lost money and clear their credit history. Too often, creditors and credit bureaus don’t cooperate, leaving consumers feeling powerless and victimized again.
We regularly challenge companies that refuse to follow the law to protect consumers. Helping ID fraud victims is one of our core practice areas. We have a deep understanding of the various federal and state laws that protect consumers facing ID theft. Using our knowledge and experience, we help defrauded consumers when other attorneys can’t or won’t.
Here’s a quick explanation of some of the laws we deal with every day to protect our clients’ rights:
- The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) controls credit reporting agencies and creditors that furnish information to credit agencies. The FCRA’s goal is to ensure that credit information is accurately reported. The credit agencies and creditors must investigate and correct false information when a consumer files a dispute. However, these companies often do not follow the law.
- The Fair Credit Billing Act (FCBA) may apply if an ID thief uses your existing credit cards or opens new credit accounts or loans in your name. Under the FCBA, credit companies must investigate customer disputes and reverse unauthorized charges. However, many creditors don’t investigate or refuse to reverse the charges when required by law.
- If your situation involves electronic money transfers in your personal bank account, the Electronic Fund Transfer Act (EFTA) may also protect you. This law limits the amount of money you might lose from an unauthorized transfer. In general, the sooner you notify your bank about a problem, the less money you will lose under this law.
- Finally, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) is another critical tool for fighting identity theft. A debt collector may try to make you pay for identity fraud charges. The FDCPA protects you from unfair and deceptive collection tactics that you may face as an identity fraud victim.
We Can Help End Your ID Theft Nightmare
Schlanger Law Group has years of experience challenging financial institutions, creditors, third-party debt collectors, and credit reporting agencies that violate consumer protection laws. We also protect large groups of consumers through class-action lawsuits when these companies repeatedly break the rules.
Finally, we have some good news… Under some laws, you may be entitled to money damages in addition to a corrected credit report and reversal of unauthorized transactions. Additionally, you may not have to pay legal fees to protect your rights. Many consumer protection laws require a creditor or credit reporting agency that violates the act to pay your attorney fees and costs.
We are fully prepared to file a lawsuit using all relevant consumer protection statutes. We have successfully represented many identity fraud clients over the years. And we are proud to help these victims recover their hard-earned money and peace of mind.
If You are an Identity Theft Victim, Don’t Wait, Reach Out Today
To answer more questions about identity theft, we created a resource of frequently asked consumer law questions. However, for more information about your specific situation, simply click the green box below to schedule a free consultation.
When your financial reputation, your credit rating, your access to financing, and your account balances are on the line, you need an advocate you can trust. Our case consultations are free, so you have nothing to lose. Call (212)500-6114 or click below to complete the simple contact form.
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.