As our lives move increasingly online, more of our personal information is exposed to cybercriminals, who are continually devising new digital scams to steal consumers’ identities. Approximately one out of three people in the U.S. have experienced identity theft. For many, the effects are long-lasting and include damaged credit, compromised bank accounts, difficulty obtaining loans, debt collection actions, and reputational damage.
Identity theft victims have rights and remedies available to them under federal laws such as the Electronic Funds Transfer Act (EFTA), the Truth in Lending Act (TILA), the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), and the Fair Credit Billing Act (FCBA). For example, provided certain conditions are met, consumers cannot be held liable for fraudulent credit card or atm card charges, nor for online hacking of their bank accounts. In addition, victims can have inaccurate identity theft information permanently blocked from appearing on their credit report.
Unfortunately, legal action is often necessary to compel creditors, collectors, reporting agencies, and others to fulfill their legal obligations to identity theft victims. The Financial Justice Initiative is committed to protecting consumers’ identity theft rights. If you are not receiving full cooperation in your attempt to recover from identity theft, a Washington identity theft lawyer can help you fight back. Call or contact us today for a free consultation.
Identity theft occurs when someone uses another person’s name, social security number, date of birth, or other identifying information, without permission, to commit fraud.
Americans are more concerned about cybercrimes than traditional crimes, according to Gallup. Approximately two-thirds of Americans say they worry about being the victim of identity theft. One-third say they already have experienced identity theft, reports cybersecurity firm Proofpoint, Inc.
In 2014, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) received more than 332,000 identity theft complaints, prompting the agency’s then-commissioner to call identity theft “the crime of the 21st Century.” Since then, the problem has only gotten worse. In 2019, the FTC received 650,547 identity theft reports—nearly double the number of reports from 2014. And 2020 is on record to smash that number. Through the first half of 2020, the FTC received more than 571,000 identity theft reports. The most commonly reported theft types include:
The 2020 Identity Fraud Study from Javelin Strategy & Research indicates that 5.1 percent of consumers were the victim of identity fraud in 2019. While that number was down from 2018 and the lowest since 2014, the total dollar losses were greater in 2019 ($16.9 billion) than any year since 2013 ($20 billion). The study notes that “criminals are targeting smaller numbers of victims while inflicting damage that is more complex to prevent or remediate.” It describes a digital arms race where criminals adapt to new technologies as consumers adapt technologies to reduce their risk.
A relatively new type of fraud, known as “account takeover” fraud, involves cybercriminals using stolen information to hijack a person’s checking and savings accounts. Javelin Strategy & Research says that the number of victims of account takeovers increased more than 20 percent last year. Javelin expects account takeovers to rise even more as the COVID-19 pandemic forces more Americans to shop and work online, creating a target-rich environment. COVID-19 has also created new opportunities for scammers, such as stolen stimulus payments, impersonating government agencies, and creating fake websites and phishing emails.
Identity theft profoundly impacts victims, often for years. It can affect their ability to get credit cards and obtain loans, prevent them from opening a bank account, lead to collection agencies calling about fraudulent accounts, and cause debt. Some of the more surprising effects of identity theft include victims experiencing difficulty or inability obtaining a job or housing, increased insurance rates, problems with the IRS, and erroneous social security income credits.
It is often beneficial to work with an experienced attorney in the area when you believe your identity has been stolen. This is because many consumers don’t realize the robust protections provided to them under federal consumer statutes.
For example, the Truth in Lending Act, the Electronic Funds Transfer Act, and the Fair Credit Billing Act all provide that a consumer may not be held liable for unauthorized credit or debit card use or other forms of electronic fraud on consumer’s bank accounts.
To alleviate the financial burden of identity theft, the Fair Credit Reporting Act provides additional protections, including the ability to:
For steps that victims of identity theft can take to protect themselves, click here.
Identity theft places a huge burden on victims. While the government prosecutes perpetrators of identity theft, victims are tasked with navigating a multitude of steps, agencies, and companies to clear their records.
But in many cases, victims do not get the help they need—and are entitled to—from credit issuers, financial services companies, and credit reporting agencies. Identity Theft: The Aftermath victim impact survey found that 46 percent of victims were somewhat or very dissatisfied with their engagements with banks and credit unions, and 43 percent were dissatisfied with reporting agencies.
Sadly, even when faced with overwhelming evidence of identity theft, many financial institutions, including even large, well-known banks and other “reputable” lenders, opt to shirk their legal obligations, refusing to make victims of identity theft whole as legally required.
When these institutions do not uphold the rights of identity theft victims, federal and state consumer protection laws can provide powerful remedies, including the right to financial compensation, and local attorney’s fees.
The Financial Justice Initiative, founded by members of the Terrell Marshall Law Group and the Schlanger Law Group, combines the resources, experience, and knowledge of top consumer protection lawyers from the East and West coasts. We are proud to regularly represent victims of identity theft, whether it involves credit cards, debit cards, apartment rentals, auto loans or other financial products. Our national law practice protects the rights of victims and helps them get their financial life back in order.
Are creditors and credit bureaus refusing to meet their legal responsibilities to you after your identity was stolen? Call or Contact a Washington identity theft lawyer for a free consultation.