What is identity theft and how do you know if you are a victim?
What is identity theft?
With all the data breaches in the news, there is a lot of concern about identity theft and frankly a lot of confusion. So let’s first start by defining what “identity theft” actually means. California law defines identity theft as “the unauthorized use of another person’s personally identifiable information to obtain credit, goods, services, money or property.” mud civil Code § 1798.92(b). Okay, but enough of the lawyer stuff, what does this actually mean?
Basically, if you use another person’s name or identity to get something in return (usually money), that’s ID theft! Many people think they have to go through their entire lives to qualify as a victim of identity theft. This is not true. Even something as simple as an unauthorized credit or debit card purchase can qualify as identity theft. After all, whoever’s name is on the card they use to make that purchase – yours!
Are you a victim of ID theft?
Okay, okay, so identity theft can be anything, but how do you know if you really are a victim of identity theft? There’s no perfect one-size-fits-all answer for this, but there are some obvious signs:
1. You receive calls or letters from debt collectors about accounts that are not yours;
2. You receive letters from creditors telling you that you have been denied a recent application for a credit card or loan that you do not recognize;
3. Your credit score drops inexplicably; or
4. You start seeing tons of new inquiries about your credit that you don’t recognize.
Many of my clients tell me that they simply ignored the first few debt collection calls they received about accounts that weren’t theirs. Please don’t do this! If you have people calling you about accounts that aren’t yours, or there’s something suspicious on your credit report, look into it and get help. There are tons of online resources for victims of identity theft. Many of my clients have been able to successfully resolve their credit issues by doing a quick Google search. However, others often get frustrated because there is so much information or get stuck and discouraged. Many would like to speak to a lawyer but assume it will cost them an arm and a leg. This is rarely the case. Almost all attorneys offer free consultations and many attorneys offer legal assistance with no out-of-pocket costs. So if you’re feeling overwhelmed, find a professional near you, give them a call and get your identity back!
– Wayne Sinnett, Esq.
#identity #theft #victim