New York City Identity Theft Lawyer
Identity theft can have a devastating impact on a person’s life, destroying his credit rating, triggering collection actions on debts he didn’t know existed, and making it difficult or impossible to obtain financing for a home, car, or other important purchase.
Unfortunately, identity theft is a widespread and growing problem. According to the 2017 Identity Fraud Report from Javelin Strategy & Research, 15.4 million Americans fell victim to identity thieves in 2016, up from 13.1 million in 2015. That fraud resulted in aggregate losses of about $16 billion and victims spent a combined 20.7 million hours resolving identity theft issues.
Federal law protects victims of identity theft, but litigating an identity theft case is complex, and many lawyers simply do not have the knowledge and experience necessary to effectively litigate an identity theft case. The attorneys at Schlanger Law Group LLP have extensive experience in litigating consumer protection matters, and regularly handle cases involving identity theft.
What is Identity Theft?
Identity theft occurs any time one person fraudulently makes use of another’s identity. Some common types of identity theft include:
- Fraudulently opening credit card accounts or taking out loans using another person’s identifying information
- Capturing credit or debit card information and using another person’s card to make purchases or obtain cash
- Gaining access to and taking over bank accounts or other accounts that allow access to cash or credit
How Does Identity Theft Occur?
Identity theft can happen in many ways, some of which may come as a surprise to the average consumer. For example, most people realize that their personal information may be stolen when there is a data security breach at a company they’ve done business with. Likewise, most people have heard stories of skimmer machines attached to ATMs and gas pumps capturing credit and debit card information.
However, many people are not aware that a significant percentage of identity theft occurs at the hands of a close friend or family member. Trusted friends and relatives often have the easiest access to personal financial information.
Protecting against Identity Theft Requires Careful Monitoring
One of the most powerful tools for protecting yourself against identity theft is quick discovery. The sooner you realize that your identity has been stolen, the greater your chances of containing the problem and avoiding serious damage.
Ironically, those who are most cautious about avoiding identity theft are often at greater risk. According to the Javelin study referenced above, the average discovery time for identity theft is longest among “offline consumers”—those who avoid e-commerce transactions, online banking, social networking, and other behaviors generally perceived as risky. While these consumers may decrease their fraud risk, they also take an average of 40 days to realize their identities have been stolen. In contrast, 78% of online shoppers notice suspicious activity within one week.
Whether you stick to paper transactions or are an active e-commerce shopper conducting extensive business online, these steps will help you protect against identity theft:
- Be careful with your personal financial information, whether that means carefully choosing the sites where you’ll enter credit card information or shredding paper bank statements before throwing them away
- Monitor your bank statements and credit card statements for suspicious activity, and act quickly when something seems awry
- Regularly review your credit reports from all three major credit bureaus (Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax) and immediately investigate any questionable entries
- Ensure that any computer or mobile device you use to conduct personal or financial business is secure
- Be cautious about providing personal information such as your birth date or Social Security number online or over the phone
- Be aware of debt collection and telemarketing scams—never give your bank account or credit card information to a stranger who telephones you
You can obtain your credit reports for free each year by visiting www.annualcreditreport.com. You will likely see many offers online for “free” credit reports, but these are often bait and switch ads designed to lure you into making unnecessary purchases. The official website listed above provides direct access to request a free report from each of the three major credit bureaus with no purchase whatsoever.
Protecting Your Rights after Identity Theft Through Litigation
Many victims of identity theft have struggled for years to clear their records after identity theft. Too often, creditors and credit bureaus fail or refuse to cooperate, leaving the victim feeling powerless once again.
The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) imposes significant obligations on both credit reporting agencies and creditors furnishing information to credit bureaus. Both have a responsibility to ensure that the information they furnish and report is accurate, and to investigate and make corrections when a consumer initiates a dispute. However, they often fail in this duty.
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) is another potentially critical tool in fighting identity theft. The FDCPA provides powerful remedies with regard to wrongful collection actions and other unfair and deceptive collection conduct that often arises in identity theft cases.
Schlanger Law Group LLP has extensive experience in compelling original creditors, debt buyers, third-party debt collectors, and credit reporting agencies and others to live up to their obligations under these consumer protection statutes. This includes the obligation to cease collection attempts where there is no reasonable basis for continuing to pursue the consumer and to make appropriate changes to client credit reports.
When they don’t do so, we are fully prepared to file suit under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, and other relevant consumer protection statutes. We may pursue not only correction of your credit report but also monetary damages. Under both the FCRA and the FDCPA, a creditor or credit reporting agency violating the act may also be responsible for your attorney fees.
Talk to an Experienced Identity Theft Litigation Lawyer
When your financial reputation, your credit rating, your access to financing, and perhaps even your bank accounts are on the line, you want an advocate you can rely on. Contact us now to schedule an initial consultation.
Schlanger Law Group LLP serves clients in New York City and throughout the United States with their consumer protection, class action, credit reporting, and identity theft issues.