In the 1990s, identity theft became all too commonplace, and the number of victims plagued by this personal nightmare has increased exponentially since. In 2007, more than eight million people were victimized. According to the Federal Trade Commission, identity theft was again the top consumer complaint in 2011 for the 11th consecutive year. Two out of every ten complaints was attributable to this epidemic. It was also Ohio's top consumer complaint. And the problem is not getting better.
It is estimated that identity theft claims a new victim every six seconds. Identity theft is far more than mere inconvenience, victims of this epidemic feel as if their lives have been hijacked. If you believe you have been a victim of identity theft, contact Amy Wells to schedule a consultation regarding your legal rights, and assistance on restoring the sanctity of your good name.
All too many identity thieves are "friends" or family members. The WELLS LAW OFFICE is well-versed at handling your case with sensitivity and compassion. We understand the financial and emotional ramifications identity theft inflicts upon its victim.
Signs of Identity Theft
If you have experienced any of the following problems, it is possible that you have been a victim of identity theft:
Unknown credit accounts are appearing on your credit report.
You are receiving mail or pre-approved credit offers with someone else's name.
Companies that you have not done business with or applied to for credit have inquiries appearing on your credit report.
Debt collectors have started sending you collection notices for accounts you do not have.
Your credit report lists an alias name or address that you have never used.
If you have questions regarding obtaining, reading, or understanding your credit report, you may contact Attorney Amy Wells for a free telephone consultation.
You cannot be certain if you have been a victim of identity theft until you have received all the relevant documents. Often you are victimized based on the failures of creditors and/or credit bureaus to maintain accurate information about you. Creditors and credit bureaus frequently mix and merge the information of consumers, resulting in inaccurate information belonging to someone else appearing on your credit report.
Identity Theft Can Hurt You
Identity thieves can open credit cards in your name and run up substantial charges, destroying your credit rating and making future purchases impossible. Insurance companies use lower credit scores to justify higher rates, or even deny insurance. You may even be denied employment or terminated from your job because of false information on your credit report. You may also suffer harassment by debt collectors.
The average identity theft victim spends between many hours addressing their problems arising from identity theft.
Steps to Fight Back Against Identity Theft
Under federal law, you may be entitled to money damages for the failure of creditors and/or credit bureaus to remove inaccurate information from your credit report based upon identity theft. To schedule a case review, contact attorney Amy Wells.
You may also place a fraud block on your credit file. This will notify all potential creditors that someone has stolen your identity, and warn them not to extend credit without proof that the applicant is really you.
Possible Online Threats to Your Identity
Phishing: This happens when you get an e-mail that appears to be from your bank or a known online business, often PayPal or eBay, instructing you to click on a link and provide information to verify your account.
Spoofing or Pharming: This happens when you access a legitimate Web site that has been compromised by hackers who have redirected the site's traffic to a fraudulent site where they instruct you to provide confidential information.
Smishing: This happens when identity thieves send you a text message on your cell phone, instructing you to visit a fraudulent Web site.
Spyware: This happens when you unknowingly download software when you open an attachment, click a pop-up window, or download a game or music online. Criminals can use spyware to record the keystrokes on your computer, and obtain credit card numbers, bank-account information, and passwords when you make purchases or conduct other online business. They can also hack into your computer's hard drive.
Other Threats to Your Identity
Vishing (voice phishing): This happens when identity thieves leave you a voice mail asking you to call your bank or credit card company at a number they provide. When you call the number, you are asked to key in your account number, PIN or other personal information.
Bank-card skimming: This happens when identity thieves use a combination of a fake ATM slot and cameras to record your account information and PIN when you use an ATM machine. Your credit or debit card also can be skimmed by a dishonest store or restaurant worker armed with a portable card reader.
Mail/Trash: Identity thieves will steal your wallet or go through your mail or trash to obtain your personal information.
Protect Your Children
As a mother herself, Attorney Wells encourages parents to help safeguard and protect their children from identity theft. Children account for about 5% of reported identity theft cases. The fraud often goes undetected for years. Only after the child reaches adulthood and applies for credit does the nightmare typically begin.
Tips to Protect Yourself & Safeguard Your Computer
Keep your confidential information secure. Never give out your bank or credit card information over the phone or Internet. Your bank or credit card company won't call or e-mail to ask for your account information. They already have it.
Keep an inventory of everything in your wallet and your PDA, including account numbers. Don't keep your Social Security card in your wallet, and don't share your Social Security number unless absolutely necessary.
If you conduct business online, use your own personal computer. A public computer is less secure, as is wireless Internet.
Don't provide your credit card number online unless you are making a purchase from a Web site you trust. Reputable sites will always direct you to a secure page with an URL starting with "https://" whenever you actually make purchases or are asked to provide confidential information.
Stop getting banking and credit card statements by mail. Most financial institutions and credit card companies offer "paperless" banking at no cost to you.
Install anti-virus, anti-spyware and firewall protection, and keep them updated.
Monitor your bank and credit card transactions for unauthorized use.
Look for suspicious devices and don't let anyone stand near you when you use an ATM. Take your card and receipt with you. Do not write down PIN numbers. Commit them to memory.
Never open e-mails from strangers. Harmful information can be hidden in embedded attachments and graphics files.
Never open attachments unless you know who sent them and what they contain.
Don't click on pop-ups. Configure Windows or your Web browser to block them.
Use passwords with at least six characters, using a combination of letters and numbers and no reference to your name or other personal information. Use a different password for every site that requires one, and change passwords often.
Never send a user name, password or other confidential information via e-mail.
Turn off your computer when you're not using it, or at least put it in standby mode.
Don't save passwords, tax returns, or other financial information on your hard drive.
Steps to Take If You are a Victim of Identity Theft
Contact your local police department and make an identity theft report. Be sure to keep a copy for yourself.
Close any accounts that have been compromised. Send a letter to the company by certified mail, return receipt requested. Request written confirmation that the disputed charges have been removed. Document your communications and keep copies of all written correspondence.
Place a fraud alert on your credit reports.
Dispute the fraudulent information on your credit report.
Ohio consumer lawyer Amy Wells advises her clients to protect their good name by reviewing their credit report with each of the three major credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax and Trans Union) at least once per year. Consumers are entitled to a FREE copy of their credit report annually, and may obtain a copy online at www.annualcreditreport.com. Ms. Wells strongly suggests that you request your report(s) by mail.
Review the information on your report carefully, and if you find an error, or have questions about the contents of your report, contact Attorney Wells for a FREE CONSULTATION regarding steps that you may take to correct this problem. Poor credit ratings can prevent access to home loans, credit and even employment. If the credit reporting agencies fail to correct errors published on your credit report, you may also be entitled to monetary damages.
Do you have questions about your rights under the Fair Credit Reporting Act or other consumer laws? Contact us today. (937) 435-4000. Or email us now.
A growing number of Ohio consumers are victimized by the use of abusive, deceptive, and unfair collection practices by debt collectors. Abusive debt collection practices contribute to a high number of personal bankruptcies, marital instability, job loss, and invasion of individual privacy. Federal law prohibits unfair and deceptive practices by debt collectors, regardless of whether or not you owe any money.
Consumer lawyer Amy Wells offers consumers complimentary, no obligation consultations to explore their legal rights. If you have been sued by a debt collector or debt buyer, preserve all of your documents and contact us today.
If you have been harassed by debt collectors or believe that you are the victim of unfair collection practices, contact WELLS LAW OFFICE today for a FREE case review. Call (937) 435-4000 or email us now.