Consumer Law

Ways an Identity Thief Uses Personal Information

An identity thief has plans for your information that you may not even realize. Mostly we think of the purse or wallet snatcher who uses your credit cards to purchase goods illegally. There are plenty of other uses for your personal information to be used to their benefit and your debt.

Here are some ways that an identity thief may use your personal information that you may not even thought of.

  • Call your creditors to have your mailing address changed on your credit card account so that you may not realize that the thief has run up charges on your account
  • Open new credit accounts in your name and not pay the bills, which will be reported on your credit report as delinquent accounts
  • Use your name to get utility services like electricity, heating or cable TV
  • Open bank accounts in your name and then write bad checks
  • Provide a fake id or state issued id with your information after they are arrested for a crime, so that the police can place charges under your name (Therefore, if they fail to appear in court, a warrant will be issued for the victim and not the identity thief)
  • Create fake checks, credit cards or debit cards using your name and account numbers
  • Authorize electronic transfers in your name to drain your bank account
  • Clone your ATM or debit card by creating a card using your account information and using that card like an ATM or credit card.
  • Take out an auto loan in your name
  • File for bankruptcy under your name to avoid paying debts, foreclosure, or eviction, especially if the thief still plans to use the victim's identity.
  • Get a driver's license or other official ID card issued in your name but with their picture
  • Get a job using your SSN
  • Use your name and SSN to get government benefits
  • Use your Social Security number to file a tax return before you do in order to receive a refund
  • Rent vehicles or houses by using your credit card and fake id
  • Get medical services using your name

Laws that Protect Your Rights

If an identity thief has used your personal information to commit crimes, there are procedures under federal law for correcting credit report and billing errors and stopping debt collectors from contacting you about bills you do not owe. Here is a summary of the federal laws:

The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), (15 U.S.C. § 1681 et seq.) sets the procedures for correcting mistakes on your credit report, such as allowing consumers to receive one free credit report per year, preventing the rentention of negative information for an excessive period of time, and preventing the reinsertion of negative information onto a report without first notifying the consumer.

The Truth in Lending Act (TILA) (15 U.S.C. §§ 1601-1667f.) requires clear disclosures of credit terms by lenders and also limits the liability of the consumer for unauthorized credit card charges to $50 dollars per card.

The Fair Credit Billing Act (FCBA) (15 U.S.C. § 1666 et seq.) protects consumers from unfair billing practices and establishes procedures to resolve billing errors on credit or charge card accounts.

The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), 15 U.S.C. § 1692 et seq, prohibits the use of unfair and deceptive practices to collect overdue bills and provides the consumer with a course of action to dispute debt and validate debt information. Furthermore, under the act, a consumer can write a letter to the collection agency and request that the agency stop calling. In addition to the letter, a police report can be sent to the agency if the consumer is a victim of identity theft.

The Electronic Fund Transfer Act (EFTA) (15 U.S.C. § 1693 et seq.), provides protections from errors in electronic fund transfer, by establishing procedures to rectify the mistake. The act also limits the consumer's liability for unauthorized transfers to $50, if the credit institution is notfied within 2 business days.

The Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act of 1998 (ITADA), 18 U.S.C. § 1028, makes it a crime for people to use the identity of another person and provides for penalties of up to 15 years in person and a maximum fine of $250,000. Under the act, a victim of identity theft can take various steps to minimize the damage caused by the identity thief (ex, file a police report, contact credit bureaus, contact the Federal Trade Commission, etc.)

Questions for Your Attorney

  • I am getting bills for services that I did not sign up for; how can I prove that I am a victim, not a deadbeat?
  • My bank account has been drained but I don't know who did it, what should I do?
  • I have been denied credit due to a crime that I supposedly committed but I didn't do it, how can I get credit?
  • I am a victim of identity theft but I don't know if I want to report the crime; do these crimes get solved or would I be wasting my time?
  • As a victim of identity theft, what are my rights under the law and will I be required to pay for any of the bills that were racked up in my name?
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