Identity theft can be incredibly challenging, particularly because much can happen before someone even realizes they have been the victim of a crime. Identity theft cases can range from opportunistic to sophisticated, and the latter can be particularly difficult to navigate. Those that carry out these crimes in a sophisticated manner want to benefit for as long as possible and will actively do all they can to avoid getting caught.
It is vital to remember that your personal information is valuable. Something as seemingly simple as your social security number can be worth paying for, and for criminals, the theft of an entire identity can be like hitting the jackpot. It essentially involves them taking ownership of enough of your personal information that they can impersonate you. That could conceivably involve taking on liabilities like debt through credit card accounts and passing all of the risk and responsibilities onto you, entirely without your knowledge.
If you are worried that you have been a victim of identity theft or already have proof and wish to take the necessary steps to put things right, Bell Law, LLC is standing by to help.
Speak to an Expert Identity Theft Lawyer from Bell Law, LLC Today
Identity theft can be an incredibly serious crime with wide-ranging implications. When most people think of identity theft, they imagine a sophisticated criminal operation that acquires their details and takes out loans in their name. That is certainly a serious concern, as this approach can make it hard to obtain credit or open new financial accounts in the future. However, identity thieves can significantly impact your life in all manner of ways, which we will cover in more detail below.
The most important task of all upon discovering identity theft, or even having suspicions, is to do something to put a stop to it. If you do not know how to shut down the activities of identity thieves alone, the identity theft attorneys from Bell Law, LLC are here to help.
With extensive experience in dealing with all manner of identity theft cases, you can rely on us to help at every stage, from identification to prevention and recovery. Our specialist lawyers work with identity theft victims to ensure their information is protected and they stand a good chance of recovering financial losses. We will also help you to comb through credit card statements and other financial records to understand the nature and scale of the crime fully. From there, we will help you understand your legal options and ensure you are fully aware of preventative measures to stop anything similar from happening again in the future.
The path to recovery all begins with a free consultation with our identity theft lawyers, all with no obligation. We can answer any questions you may have and provide an initial legal perspective on your case.
If you have struggled with identity theft, call our attorneys now at 816-281-0649.
What Is Identity Theft?
The first job when identifying whether you have fallen victim to an identity thief is understanding what identity theft is. Sometimes known as identity fraud, it involves one or more individuals obtaining sufficient personal information about an individual that they can convincingly portray themselves as being that person.
In an increasingly digital world, the identification of an individual increasingly relies on documents and data rather than anything directly involving the person concerned. You can typically open a new bank account with certain identifying information, with no need to ever visit the bank in person.
When someone maliciously gains access to or owns that information, they can make the same applications. That might lead to them applying for and receiving a loan using fraudulent information. They can then decide where the loan amount is deposited by potential creditors, whether that is an account created using your stolen identity or another set up specifically to receive illicit funds.
They receive the cash from their financial institution of choice, but as far as your credit report and the credit reporting agencies are concerned, the liability for repaying the debt lies with you. For those that do not check their credit reports frequently and choose not to take advantage of the annual free credit report that credit bureaus are obliged to provide, it could be months or years before they realize that anything is amiss. For some, there are no warning signs that identity theft may have occurred until a debt collector turns up to discuss missed payments.
How Your Identity Can Be Stolen
As noted, identity theft occurs when personal information falls into the wrong hands. Crucially, identity thieves thrive on large volumes of related information. For example, a credit card number, address form, birth date, or telephone number individually may not be enough to impersonate someone else convincingly.
However, put all of that information together and add in a social security number and an individual’s utility accounts and broader credit information, and an identity thief has all they need to commit fraud.
There are many ways that this information can fall into the wrong hands, and it does not always have to begin with fraud. Indeed, it could begin with literal ID theft, whereby an individual steals a passport, driving license, or another form of identification. In sophisticated, targeted attacks, a criminal could intercept mail or use social engineering to build up a picture of someone’s credit card information, credit history, and more over time.
Of course, far more common causes involve data breaches. It is vital never to underestimate just how many different businesses and government departments maintain identifiable records. Banks, credit reporting agencies, debt collectors, and the Department of Motor Vehicles are just some examples. While they are responsible for the security of the data they maintain, it illustrates how even the most diligent individuals cannot control everything.
How to Prevent Identity Theft
While it is impossible to account for every possible eventuality, it is always preferable to prevent identity theft than to put things right after the fact. Your identity theft attorney will assist you with putting protections in place when you work with us. Still, anyone can take steps at any time to prevent the spread of identifying information and the opening of fraudulent accounts.
Some of the best options include:
- Freezing credit accounts with the three major credit bureaus, ensuring that no new records may be added until you deliberately unfreeze them
- Ensuring you never share your social security number unless absolutely necessary, as it is often the key piece of information that ties everything else together
- Taking advantage of the annual free copy of credit reports that credit bureaus must provide upon request
- Taking advantage of fraud alert services on accounts and acting quickly if and when those fraud alerts appear. It is also worth considering an extended alert, which lasts for seven years and requests that prospective creditors take additional steps to verify an individual’s identity before providing them with credit accounts
- Regularly monitoring financial accounts and other sensitive formal relationships for signs of suspicious activity
The Three Major Credit Bureaus and the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA)
While we have touched on the fact that it is close to impossible to protect personal information fully, individuals are not alone in attempting to ensure that creating new accounts with a stolen identity is made as difficult as possible.
Unsurprisingly, credit reports are often closely associated with identity theft, and anyone with a credit report can benefit from the Fair Credit Reporting Act. Enforced by the Federal Trade Commission, it is designed to protect consumers from the inclusion of false information in a credit report. It means that credit agencies have certain obligations to consumers to ensure they do not become identity theft victims and that every major bureau has a fraud department.
More importantly, the FCRA can be a vital tool for many lawyers when working to remove fraudulent information from the report of a victim of identity theft.
The Implications of Having Your Identity Stolen
Often the most significant concern among those that have had their identity stolen or that are concerned at the possibility is not the theft itself but dealing with the resulting outcomes.
Credit identity theft is typically the most common. After all, those that are willing to carry out ID theft are typically motivated by financial gain, and the opportunity to obtain a credit card or loan that they will never have to repay is enough to continue their fraud. This can result in the victim being chased by creditors, held responsible for fraudulent charges, and unable to apply for more credit in the future.
Another potential risk involves medical identity theft. This is defined as using someone else’s identity in order to obtain health care or medical services. The most worrying impact here involves the potential mixing of personal information, but also medical records, which could potentially impact the care given to an individual in the future.
Individuals should also be aware of the potential for criminal ID theft, which is more common than some give it credit for. This occurs when someone provides the information of someone else to law enforcement, typically as part of an arrest. If they have enough information about the individual or physical identification documents to ‘prove’ they are who they say they are, it could lead to further arrests or the failure of background checks in the future.
How a Dedicated Identity Theft Attorney Can Help
Most people react to the news that they have been victims of identity theft either with shock at being targeted or amazement that they could not spot the warning signs sooner. However, once the initial emotional response subsides, it is time to speak to an identity theft lawyer, who can help victims to understand their legal rights and commence legal action to recover losses and protect their information in the future.
Every ID theft case is different, which is why an experienced identity theft attorney can prove so invaluable. Some cases are relatively simple and may be resolved with nothing more than free copies of credit reports and a single police report.
Other cases can be significantly more complex. while they, too, might involve a police report, there may be much to address, with multiple offenses occurring since the identity was stolen. Our identity theft lawyers would work to establish exactly what happened as a result of this fraud, combing through every account statement, credit report, and fraud alert to gain a clear picture of what must happen next.
This might involve identity theft lawyers contacting lenders with an identity theft affidavit, liaising directly with credit agencies, and, of course, commencing legal action against those that perpetrated the fraud.
Once they have ensured that every account is in order, they will support clients through the entire process, ensuring that they can navigate a potentially complex situation in a way that ensures that they do not need to suffer any form of loss.
Contact Bell Law, LLC for All Your Identity Theft Concerns
It is difficult to assess identity theft if falling victim for the first time. It is becoming increasingly vital for individuals to serve as the first line of defense for their personal information.
While a single fraud alert from your bank or a credit bureau is no cause for panic, if you are suspicious about anything involving your personal information, acting fast can make all the difference.
We help our clients to do just that by starting the relationship with a completely free, no-obligation initial consultation. If you are concerned that your identity is being used without your permission, act now.Our team is standing by now to take your call, so reach out at 816-281-0649.