What Can Happen if Someone Steals My Identity?


When your identity is stolen, the identity thief usually does so with the intent to unlawfully use that information for their own economic gain.  Some of the most common ways that an identity thief will use your personal information are set forth below.  If unauthorized charges are damaging your credit score, you may be able to seek compensation under the provisions of the Fair Credit Reporting Act or other laws.


Accessing Your Existing Credit Accounts


One of the easiest ways for an identity thief to use your personal information is by accessing one of your existing accounts.  This can result in unauthorized charges to your credit card or withdrawal of funds without your knowledge.  Often it will takes several days or longer for this information to come to your attention, by which time the damage has been done.  This can result in a significant problem for you and also can have a very negative impact on your credit score.  You need to monitor your accounts and report any suspicious activity immediately.


Opening New Credit Card Accounts in Your Name:


Another way that an identity thief will profit from the theft of your personal information is by using it to open new credit card accounts in your name.  Some cards can be opened with a minimum of information and you will not know that this has occurred until you are notified that there is an unpaid balance under your name.  This can damage your credit as the account may be reported under your name when it is not paid.


Opening Other Accounts in Your Name:

Sometime an identity thief will use the stolen information to establish accounts with utility companies, mobile phone carriers, bank accounts or other accounts.  This can result in you being contacted regarding overdue balances, bounced checks or other debts.  If reported, all of these can have an adverse impact on your credit score and cause you to spend numerous hours in an effort fix this problem.


Obtaining Government Documents

An identity thief can use your personal information to obtain false government documents such as a social security card or driver’s license, then use this in connection with opening an account in your name or applying for government benefits.


How Can I Protect my Identity and Credit?


The first step is to regularly monitor your existing accounts and your credit report to ensure that there had been no unauthorized activity.  You should look carefully at each bill you receive and each transaction on your accounts.  Also, you are entitled to one free report every 12 months and you should make sure you do an annual check: https://www.annualcreditreport.com/requestReport/landingPage.action.   If you are contacted about an account or bill you are not aware of you need to follow up and determine whether someone has opened an account in your name.


If you determine that an identity thief has used your personal information to open an account, you need to take immediate steps to protect yourself.  First, you should contact the police and file a report.  Even if you do not know who opened the unauthorized account, filing the report will demonstrate that it was done without your knowledge.  You also should look at your credit report to see if any other account were improperly opened under you name. You should immediately contact the entity which opened any account to advise them that you did not authorize the account and tell them that it appears to have been done by someone who illegally accessed and used your personal information.  It can bolster your case if you are able to provider a police report to each creditor.  In this contact, you should dispute all unauthorized charges or transactions and tell the creditor to not allow any other activity to occur on this account.


What do I do if the Creditor Reports Unlawful Charges under My Name?


Creditors are required by law to only report accurate information to the credit bureaus.  If you think that your credit report contains information which is not accurate, you may have legal rights to not only have this improper information removed, but also to seek and recover monetary damages.  You can contact our attorneys for a consultation to discuss your legal rights.
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