identity theft

It's Not Fair...It's Not My Debt! 

Someone has stolen your identity and used it to purchase and accumulate debt. The creditors and debt collectors are contacting you.
What should you do? How can the collection agency help?

It Can Happen To You

You may likely be the next victim of identity theft. Imagine getting a call from a collection agency demanding that you pay past due accounts for goods or services you never ordered. Suddenly local retailers are refusing your checks because you have a history of bouncing them even though you have always paid your bills on time.

The crime of identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in America. The largest credit bureaus report millions in losses every year and the crime continues to plague us all. The newest group of victims seem to be born after 1988 and received social security numbers at their time of birth. Now young adults, these victims may have their credit ruined by a thief before ever applying for credit themselves; some thieves are even family members.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) estimates that each year nine million Americans are victims of identity theft. Criminals steal personal information to impersonate a victim; they spend as much money as they can in as short a time as possible before moving on to someone else. The most common forms of identity theft are opening credit card accounts or writing bad checks in the victim's name. It can be detrimental to the victim's credit report, shatter their spirits and devastate their financial dreams if not properly handled.

CAC's Commitment

Few things in your life are as private as your identity. The members of the California Association of Collectors are committed to being proactive in assisting those consumers who are victims of identity theft and have had their accounts assigned for collection. Erroneous debts assigned to collection agencies can be researched and corrected if the protocol is properly handled. We firmly believe that, with industry resources, we can verify and assist victims of identity theft.

What to do if it happens to you

  • The most important thing to do is to file a police report where the crime occurred.
  • Equally important is to file a complaint with the FTC by calling:
    (877) IDTHEFT or (877) 438-4338.
  • Keep a log of all contacts. Get names, dates and times.
  • Call the fraud units of the three credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Request an alert on your record and verify the expiration of the alert. Also, request a victim's statement on your account. Request a credit report (credit reports can be obtained free once a year and victims are also entitled to a free report).
  • Contact all creditors, by phone and in writing, where fraudulent use has occurred. Have these accounts removed from your credit report.
  • Check with your bank in the event your checks are stole. Look for fraudulent use or fraudulent accounts that you did not open.
  • Notify your utility companies especially if any new accounts open or have been opened in your name.
  • Contact DMV if your driver's license or ID is stolen.
  • After trying to resolve the problem and if you do not have established credit, call the social security administration to inquire about getting a new SSN issued (restrictions apply). A new SSN does not ensure a new credit record and the absence of credit can make it hard to have credit so review what is best for your situation.
  • If you suspect your mail has been stolen, call the post office and inquire if a change of address was filed.
  • Back everything up in writing.
  • Make sure all stolen credit cards and checks are canceled.
  • Call your other credit issuers and have your accounts password protected.

how to protect yourself

  • Review statements, bills, and credit report history on a regular basis to make sure all charges were authorized by you.
  • Be careful about to whom you give out personal information, including social security number (SSN), personal identification numbers (PIN), passwords and your mother's maiden name.
  • Never provide any personal bank account or credit card information to anyone who contacts you through a telephone solicitation or e-mail.
  • Keep items with personal information in a safe place; never carry your social security card or PIN with you.
  • Be careful with all bank and credit card receipts, ATM transactions, old insurance forms, etc. Thieves search through garbage cans to find information about you. Get in the habit of shredding your old documents.
  • Never throw credit card receipts in a public trash container.
  • Minimize the number of credit cards and other items with personal information printed on it.
  • Cancel all inactive accounts.
  • Do not leave envelopes containing your checks in your home mailbox.
  • When ordering new checks, pick them up at the bank instead of having them delivered.
  • Shred anything with your name, address, DOB, SSN and any credit solicitations.
  • To decrease the number of unsolicited credit card applications that you receive (and the chances of these applications being stolen), call (888) 5OPT-OUT to have your name removed from marketing lists sold by credit bureaus.

WARNING: FILING A FALSE REPORT OF FRAUD OR IDENTITY THEFT IS A CRIME.

Your Liability

You are not responsible for the debt as long as you notify the proper authority. Usually, victims of credit and credit card fraud will be liable for no more than the first $50 of the loss. In many cases, the victim will not be required to pay any part of the loss. However, the victim must notify financial institutions within two days of learning of the loss.

Even though victims are not responsible for fraudulent bills, they are often left with a bad credit report and must spend months and even years regaining their financial health. In the meantime, they have difficulty writing checks, obtaining loans, renting apartments and even gaining employment.

Victims of identity theft or fraud find almost no help from the authorities so it is up to you to resolve the problem. Reporting a fraudulent debt to the credit-reporting agency is essential to beginning the correction process as well as making a report to the local police and documentation is imperative.

By the time a debt is turned over to a collection agency, the creditor has failed on many attempts to collect or contact the debtor. The collection agency's job is to attempt to collect a debt on behalf of the creditor. If a debt is fraudulent, it should be reported IMMEDIATELY upon first notice from the creditor.

if a Collection Agency contacts you...

The responsibility of a collection agency is to collect overdue bills that a creditor has assigned for collections.

  • Reply in writing to the collection agency that the debt is not your debt. Include documentation, including a copy of a police report and the FTC Fraud Report filed by you stating you are a victim of ID theft.
  • You can comply with the written statement requirement in three ways; by completing a pre-approved reporting form for victims of identity theft, (provided by the California Office of Privacy Protection or the FTC), using a form prepared by the debt collector or by providing a written certification containing specified information and documentation.
  • Contact the creditor; follow up in writing.
  • Contact the fraud departments of the three major credit bureaus and file a report.

Credit Reporting Bureaus

Equifaxwww.equifax.com
To order your report call:
(800) 685-1111

To report fraud call:
(888) 766-0008

Or write:
P.O. Box 740241
Atlanta, GA 30374-0241

 

Experianwww.experian.com
To order your report call:
(888) EXPERIAN (397-3742)

To report fraud call:
(888) 397-3742

Or write:
P.O. Box 2104
Allen, TX 75013-2104

 

TransUnionwww.transunion.com
To order your report call:
(800) 916-8800

To report fraud call:
(800) 680-7289

Or write:
P.O. Box 6790
Fullerton, CA 92834

Website resources

Federal Trade Commission Hotline:
www.consumer.ftc.gov/features/feature-0014-identity-theft

Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC): www.idtheftcenter.org

 

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