How to Help a Client Who Has Been the Victim of Identity Theft

Identity Theft

How to Help a Client Who Has Been the Victim of Identity Theft

According to the Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Statistics (“BJS”), nearly16.6 million people, or 7% of all persons age 16 or older, experienced at least one incident of identity theft in 2012. Identity theft includes the attempted or successful misuse of an existing credit, debit, or bank account, the misuse of personal information to open a new account, or the misuse of personal information for fraudulent purposes such as receiving government benefits or identifying oneself to law enforcement. In most cases of identity theft, the victim need only spend a day or less clearing up the problems associated with the theft. However, about 10% of victims will need to spend more than a month resolving related financial and legal issues. So how can you help?

Ask Your Client to Change Their Existing Passwords for Online Accounts

Have your client change the passwords for all of their online shopping, bank, and bill pay accounts. For more secure passwords:

  • Use a combination of letters, numbers, and special characters
  • Use a combination of lower and upper case letters
  • Do not use the same password for all of your accounts
  • Create passwords that contain at least 10 characters
  • Do not use common words
  • Do not use your name, spouses name, pets name, or anything someone can easily guess

Place a Fraud Alert on the Client’s Account

Ask the three credit reporting agencies to place a fraud alert on your client’s account. The three agencies include Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Placing a fraud alert is free and will allow your client to obtain a free copy of his or her credit report from each of the three agencies.

Order Copies of your Client’s Credit Report

Placing the fraud alert on your client’s account will allow you to obtain free copies of his or her credit report from each the three credit reporting agencies. You should be able to place the fraud alert and order copies of your client’s reports online by visiting each of the agencies websites.

Report the Identity Theft to the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”)

You can file a report with the FTC online using the Complaint Assistant page of the FTC’s website. Be sure to save the client’s report number. Filing the report will create an Identity Theft Affidavit that you should save and print.

Have your Client Report the Identity Theft to the Police

Have your client should go into the local police station with the Identity Theft Affidavit, the FTC’s Memo to Law Enforcement, photo identification, and details about what accounts were used, closed, or open, including financial institution names, addresses, and account numbers and report the theft. Be sure to obtain copies of the police report once it is ready.

Review your Client’s Credit Reports

Once you receive the free copies of your client’s credit reports, review them with your client for errors and inaccurate information. Circle all inaccurate information.

Ask all Three Credit Reporting Agencies to Remove Inaccurate Information

Write to each of the three credit reporting agencies and ask them to remove any errors or inaccurate information. You can use the FTC’s sample letter as a template for this. Be sure to include copies of the Identity Theft Affidavit, police report, and your client’s credit report, with the inaccuracies circled.

Contact Businesses that Reported Fraudulent Transactions

Contact the fraud department of each business that reported a fraudulent transaction on your client’s credit report and dispute the transaction. You can use the FTC’s sample letter as a template for this. Be sure to enclose copies of your client’s Identity Theft Affidavit, police report, and the credit report, with the disputed information circled.

Ask Companies Who Opened Fraudulent Accounts to Close Them

If the identity thief opened new accounts in your client’s name, write to the companies with whom the accounts were opened and ask that they close the accounts. The FTC provides a sample letter that you can use for this. Again, be sure to enclose copies of the Identity Theft Affidavit and police report.

Stop Debt Collections for Debt Incurred by the Identity Thief

If your client is being harassed by debt collectors to pay for debts incurred by an identity thief, write to the three credit reporting agencies and ask them to block the fraudulent debts from your client’s report. Again, you should include copies of the Identity Theft Affidavit, police report, and credit report with the information you want blocked circled. The FTC provides a sample letter that you can use as a template.

Follow up with the Credit Reporting Agencies

Follow up in six months by ordering new copies of your client’s credit reports and reviewing them to ensure that all errors and inaccuracies were removed, fraudulent accounts blocked, and that the report is now accurate. Your client can order free copies of his or her credit reports every 12 months by visiting Annual Credit Report.

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About Shelley Riseden

Shelley M. Riseden is a freelance paralegal providing research, document preparation, and writing services to both attorneys and non-attorneys. She is an expert at conducting legal research and has a natural ability to grasp complex legal issues.Phone: 765.667.5139, E-mail: smriseden@earthlink.net or shelley@virtuallylegal.net, Skype: shelley.riseden, Yahoo: Virtually_Legal

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