From Correcting Your Credit to Clearing Your Name
Identity theft can cause huge problems. Someone you never heard of gets hold of your personal information, opens up an account with a credit company, racks up huge debt – and the bills start coming to you. That’s identity theft. But while bogus credit card accounts are probably the most well-known result of identity theft, there are other results that may be even more damaging:
- someone posing as you can obtain health benefits that you will be held responsible for, and which may confuse your health records;
- you may suddenly be denied credit, housing, or employment because of issues coming up on background checks under your name, but not of your doing;
- you may be pursued in court for alleged debts with all kinds of accounts – utilities, car payments, purchases online – as well as credit card accounts; and perhaps worst of all,
- someone posing as you may commit another crime, for which you may be charged.
Whether it’s a matter of straightening out credit card charges, or defending yourself against a criminal charge, identity theft is a complicated injury, and you would be wise to consult an attorney as soon as possible. It is important to act quickly, as there may be short time limits on beginning a lawsuit if you must take legal action. In particular, an attorney can help you:
- navigate the maze of incorrect credit information with creditors, credit report services and others who have the wrong information in order to clear your name;
- clear up issues of background checks when you are denied employment or credit because of information wrongly attributed to you because of identity theft;
- bring a legal action against creditors or credit reporting agencies who refuse to remove entries that were incurred by fraud or who provided credit to a person acting in your name without appropriate identification. The Fair Credit Reporting Act provides for civil penalties against credit reporting companies that do not follow the rules of credit reporting. An attorney can help you pursue a case against companies who willfully or negligently misreport information in your credit report;
- defend you when you are accused of any criminal conduct relating to the theft of your identity, or clear your name if you have already been convicted of a crime based on stolen identity;
- bring an action against companies that failed to safeguard your confidential information, such as your account numbers, your social security number, or other information that was stolen and caused you harm; and
- bring a legal action against the individual who injured you by using your information.
While identity theft is a crime that will be pursued by law enforcement if there is enough proof, a separate civil suit is almost always necessary in order to win any monetary damages.