Identity theft can be a credit nightmare. Even of banks refund money or creditors excuse debts, your credit report may still reflect you incurring debt you didn’t incur. Luckily, the law has provisions to try to help you if you’re an identity theft victim.
(Remember, CRAs are Credit Reporting Agencies – Experian, Equifax and Transunion, generally).
First, if you’ve been a victim, you can report it to a CRA, and all the CRAs must mark your report and account with a fraud alert. Even if you just suspect that you could be a victim, you have a right to make that report. You will also be entitled to a free credit report upon notifying the CRAs of possible fraud. The fraud alert will remain for 90 days. You can also obtain a free copy of your credit report at www.annualcreditreport.com. Many other sites are set up by the credit reporting agencies to get you to sign up for credit monitoring services.
A fraud alert can last up to seven years, but for that extended time, a police report will need to be produced, and a CRA can require you to prove much further documentation than with the shorter fraud alert term. It’s always good practice to make a police report when you have been an ID fraud victim.
Fraud Alert Rights
Being on a fraud alert will prohibit a CRA from including your name in any pre-screening lists. The alert will tell those pulling credit that you don’t authorize any new increase in credit limit or applications for new credit. If you do legitimately apply for credit, creditors will have to take extra steps to verify you are who you say you are.
Fraudulent information on your account will be blocked, and shouldn’t appear in the future when your report is reviewed or ordered. If a CRA doesn’t think your request is legitimate, it must inform you of that in writing after your request. To avoid this, you should provide the CRA with all your documentation when making an ID theft report.
Furnishers (creditors) can’t place accounts that are a result of ID theft, into collections or sell the debt, but the notice has to come from the CRA. Thus, although you can notify your creditors of the ID theft, your legal protections don’t arise unless you formally notify the CRAs.
Sadly, many CRAs will reinsert bad information on credit reports. So, if you’ve been a victim, you should continue to check your credit. Violations of any of these protections may allow you to file a suit under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), entitling you to obtain damages against CRAs that break the law. You can obtain a free copy of your credit report at www.annualcreditreport.com. Many other sites are set up by the credit reporting agencies to get you to sign up for credit monitoring services.
If you’re a victim of identity theft, you have rights and need to act to protect your credit. The consumer attorneys at Keogh Law may be able to help. Call us today to discuss all your consumer credit problems.