So you are now a victim of identity theft, and you need to know how to act? You might find guidance elsewhere on the Web, but our Identity Theft, Victim Rights Handbook, is really a one-stop for victims.
We have witnessed a lot of misinformation shared over the years, and much of this content still ranks high in Google. Everyone needs to be aware of their rights if they do become a victim. Instead of reading a few here and there, take the time to read into this handbook to learn all you need to know.
But first, understand that crafting such a high-authority handbook is no task – there must be a plan in place for it to work out.
When researching, we focused on rights about:
Creating a handbook containing all the important rights derived from a law that applies to identity theft victims is impressive. The list could run on forever, but only certain rights hold much weight in the end. A million angles could have been taken — no legitimate source has bothered to take any yet.
We wanted to fill that void – identity theft victims deserve to know what rights they do have!
But what’s our approach?
By now, we have already shared many helpful posts about how to report identity theft and restore your credit accounts to pre-theft condition. But, it’s important that it also cover identity theft laws. You have many rights as an identity theft victim, and you don’t know it yet!
The rights that apply to identity theft victims are underexposed and often go unnoticed by victims too. It’s our goal to detail the various rights you have that truly matter; to do so, we examined the following legislation acts:
With all that said, let’s start going over the rights you have when recovering from identity theft!
Identity theft victims have rights that count when reporting identity theft, many of which come from the Fair Credit Reporting Act and the Fair Credit Billing Act.
Some of these rights include the right to:
You should be requesting documentation along the way. Documenting your identity theft situation is very important to do — for best results, keep records of everything throughout your identity restoration journey. But, do not forget to make sure the FTC Identity Theft affidavit is kept up-to-date.
The Fair Credit Billing Act and the Fair Credit Reporting Act protect you in many other ways, including a few that come in handy when dealing with credit bureaus.
Here are your rights.
You have the right to dispute anything on your credit file that you believe should not be there. If proven correct, the bureau(s) with inaccurate information must make the respective changes. As the negative information shifts off your credit report, it will also stop impacting your credit score. Thus, if identity theft plagued your credit rating, you will see a sizable increase once the restoration process is over.
When expressing your right to dispute false data on your credit report, there’s a similar right you also need to express:
Send the credit bureaus proof of identity, a copy of your FTC Identity Theft Affidavit, and a write-out specifying the fraudulence showing on your credit report. The credit bureau will then be required to inform you about how they obtained the fraudulent information.
Further, if the debt is not yet in collections, the creditor will no longer be able to send it to collections once you block them from posting more inaccuracies on your report.
As of 2015, 50 states and the District of Columbia offer security freezes. The cost and rules for placing, lifting, and removing will vary by state. It’s an option for all, and those who have been victimized should certainly consider it.
By placing a freeze on your report, you effectively prevent fraudsters from committing new account fraud. Any new lender won’t be able to pull your credit report to approve the new account; you must first give the credit bureau permission to unfreeze your file or release it to a specific creditor.
Pro tip: Placing a security freeze will only stop new inquirers from pulling your file; if you have any active credit accounts with a reporting company, they will still be able to pull your report.
The only downfall with a security freeze is that it cannot protect against pre-existing account fraud. This means a re-attack could happen under the same accounts that were compromised before.
The 90-day fraud alert: if you think you were victimized or you just found proof, this initial fraud alert will post on your report for just long enough to get the formal paperwork through.
The 7-year fraud alert: once you have your FTC Identity Theft Affidavit, extend your fraud alert for seven years to get your report watched over if you get re-victimized.
When you find out you are a victim, the very first thing you do is notify the affected creditors. Then, you get in touch with the credit report bureaus and let them know about the crime. When doing so, you also request a 90-day fraud alert.
After you place a fraud alert at one bureau, they will notify the two other credit-reporting agencies to do the same. After the identity theft is clear, the bureaus will extend the fraud alert to seven years. This is necessary to give the victim enough time to recover without any worries of a re-attack.
Pro tip: Your initial fraud alert entitles you to a free credit report from each bureau. Your extended alert entitles you to a second and third free credit report.
You already receive one free report each year, which you can claim through AnnualCreditReport.com. This includes a free report for placing the initial fraud alert, two more for the extended alert, and the typical free annual credit report. When you call the credit bureaus, they might forward you to that; make sure you know all the other avenues.
When dealing with creditors, your mileage may vary. It’s always good to remember you have a few rights to protect you when working with them with possible hostility involved.
Some rights you might want to express when handling creditors include:
You are entitled to full disclosure from the creditor. This includes everything from new account applications to transaction statements. To get these documents, you must first excuse yourself of guilt — to do so, send your request with a copy of your FTC Identity Theft Affidavit and your identity theft police report.
When making your request, you will have better luck if you ask the company to deliver the documents to your local police. That way, it can be entered into your identity theft police report, and you can go in and request a printout for your own records. The creditor will also not have to worry about whether the person on the phone is the real you by requesting this.
Now you need to put an end to the debt collectors that are doing you no favors. You have the right to ask by mail that they stop contacting you. Send them a letter with that request, and most likely, they will oblige.
However, it would help if you only terminated the debt collector’s communication after getting details from them. As such, send your request only after receiving details about the fraudulent account(s) in question.
When finding out more about these debts, at the very least, you should get the creditor’s name and what you had owed them before it was sent to collections.
Facing your identity thief can be an empowering yet scary experience, so it’s perfectly understandable if you fear an upcoming court case. Needless to say, you have nothing to worry about; in court, the victim of identity theft has the right to a lot, including:
As you can see, you have the right to be fully involved in the case even though you might not be representing yourself. You have the chance to speak up and get heard at various hearings aside from the main proceedings. If you are willing to take the initiative as a victim, the accused will no longer have much more power than you.
An identity theft victim is rarely held financially liable. But, there are general laws in place that can influence financial liability in certain fraud-related scenarios.
Some financial liability factors include:
As you can see, you only have liability risks to worry about if you fail to report the crime in a reasonable amount of time. It should be easy enough to catch a fraudster when the proof shows up on your monthly statement. If you see anything suspicious, report it to be safe.
That said, these financial liability factors are commonly spread across the Internet and seen as concrete information. In reality, these rules are not always followed — they often get overridden to avoid blaming the innocent. If it’s clear the victim was not involved in the fraud, or if the victim tries hard to clear their name, then it’s doubtful that financial liability would be requested.
Your information becomes poison, and your attacker has the power to re-victimize you for many years to come. Even a changed Social Security Number only protects you so much; when they know who you are, it takes getting caught to put a stop to them.
All the rights displayed in this post are of significant value to identity theft victims. Some go unnoticed during the recovery process — for example, many victims do not realize that the theft really costs them nothing years later.
All said, make sure you obtain and store a copy of your FTC Identity Theft Affidavit immediately. This will, without a doubt, prove to be one of the most used documents in your entire path towards a recovered identity.