Identity theft will impact at least 7 percent of U.S. adults this year, and it can cause catastrophic damage to each victim’s credit score. Sadly, it is often difficult for law enforcement officers to track down the perpetrators of this crime, and that can place a large strain on people who attempt to get their credit record corrected. Because of this, it is important to always remain cognizant of your actions so that you do not increase your odds of becoming a victim. For example, you should never transmit sensitive data via an unsecured website. If you are unsure if the site is secured, you should look at the URL bar. If the address starts with https instead of http, the page you are looking at is secure.
What Exactly is Identity Theft?
Identity theft occurs when another individual or organization takes your personal data, such as your social security number, and uses it to open new credit accounts in your name without your permission. The perpetrators of this crime utilize the fraudulently obtained credit to purchase items that they are never going to pay for. In some cases, this issue will be confined to a single fraudulent credit card. However, there have been more serious cases that have involved buying cars and even signing new mortgages in the victim’s name. Unfortunately, most people do not know that they have become the victim of identity theft until they are denied when they apply for a new line of credit. By this point, it can be very difficult to get the situation sorted out in a timely manner.
Have I Become a Victim of Identity Theft?
There are several warning signs that can help you determine if you have become the victim of identity theft. However, the best way to catch the issue early is to sign up for a credit monitoring service. These services will alert you if any new accounts are opened in your name, and you will be able to shut them down immediately. Additionally, you should pay attention to unusual mail, email or telephone calls that you receive from creditors. Although most people assume that these companies are simply cold-calling people, this is not always the case. Instead, they might have received your information on a credit card application.
Avoiding Identity Theft
Some identity thieves get information from mail that contains sensitive information, but it is far more common for someone to have their identity stolen because of their actions on the Internet. Therefore, you need to ensure that you do not make the process easy for them. It is important to always have proper virus protection, a firewall, anti-spyware and anti-malware software in place, because this can keep criminals from placing spyware on your computer that will record your keystrokes. You should also be careful with the information that you transmit via a smartphone or tablet. After all, it is easy to use this technology, but it is not easy to ensure that no one else will be able to access your information.
When to Hire an Attorney
In today’s society, a lawyer could be needed for two reasons involving identity theft, one is if you have been charged criminally with identity theft and the other is for taking measures to clear your name after becoming a victim to it. Below are the steps that should be taken for identity theft.
1) Fallen Victim to Identity Theft– First thing is to get organized. Identity theft is a demanding task to deal with. Create a fraud alert and obtain a recent copy of your credit report from all major credit reporting agencies, one from each agency, to find out exactly what has financially transpired and with what companies. Contact these companies to make them aware of what has happened and to close all accounts. Be sure to talk with their fraud departments. Create a journal and record all the information discussed during these calls and who you have talked to. That might be important to reference to later on.
File an ID theft affidavit and fraudulent account statements report. File a police report and give them copies of the ID theft affidavit and fraudulent account statement reports. Next you will need to file a report with the Federal Trade Commission. At this point you will need to start disputing any charges accrued that are not yours with the credit agencies and the companies they are with. Oftentimes, retaining a lawyer to help you with this might be needed, depending on the damage that needs to be repaired to a person’s credit due to the theft.
2) Charged with Identity Theft- Identity theft is the act of pretending to be someone else, particularly for monetary gain. If you use someone else’s Social Security number to apply for an auto loan, you can be charged with identity theft. If you make purchases online with someone else’s credit card number, you can be charged with identity theft. Prosecutors come down hard on this crime because it requires diligent effort.
Being charged means that you have committed an act pretending to be someone else. Usually monetary issues are involved. This charge can come in many forms but a popular example is a person using someone else’s social security number to apply for a loan or line of credit. If you are accused of identity theft, it is imperative to hire a local criminal defense attorney immediately. For example, if you are were charged in Orlando for making a purchase with a credit card that was not yours, look for an experienced criminal defense lawyer in Orlando Florida. A lawyer from the area the charge pertains will be knowledgeable about all local and state laws and will be equipped to counsel and defend you.
Whether charged or victimized with identity theft, it is a nightmare no one wants to deal with. Identity theft is a growing problem in today’s society, especially with the technological advancements that make it easier for a person to become victimized. Seeking legal counsel for any issue from identity theft would be a wise.