What is identity theft?
With all the data leaks 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” really 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.” California. Civil. Code § 1798.92(b). OK, but enough with the lawyer stuff, what does that really mean?
Basically, if you use someone else’s name or identity to get something in return (usually money), that’s identity theft! Many people think that they have to lose their entire life to qualify as a victim of identity theft. That is not true. Even something as simple as an unauthorized credit or debit card purchase can qualify as identity theft. After all, whose name is on the card they’re using to make that purchase, theirs!
Are You a Victim of Identity Theft?
OK OK, so identity theft can be basically anything, but how do you know if you really are a victim of identity theft? There is no single perfect answer to this, but there are some obvious signs:
1. You receive calls or letters from debt collectors for accounts that are not yours;
2. You receive letters from creditors informing you that you have been denied a recent credit card application or a loan you do not recognize;
3. Your credit score plummets with no explanation; Prayed
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 for accounts that were not theirs. Please do not do that! If people call you about accounts that aren’t yours or if there’s a problem with your credit report, look into it and get help. There are tons of resources online for victims of identity theft. Many of my clients can successfully resolve their credit problems by doing a quick Google search. However, others often get frustrated that there is so much information available or hit a roadblock and get discouraged. Many would like to speak to a lawyer but assume it will cost them an arm and a leg. That is rarely the case. Almost all attorneys offer free consultations, and many attorneys offer legal help with no out-of-pocket costs. So if you are feeling overwhelmed, find a professional near you, give them a call and get your identity back!
-Wayne Sinnett, Esq.