By Gonzalo Macchi, Identity Theft, Consumer Finance, Collections, Family Law, Contracts, Landlord/Tenant issues, and Traffic Citations Attorney
Have you, or somebody you know, been the victim of identity theft? For many people, the answer to this question is ‘Yes.’ According to the Federal Trade Commission, Florida has the highest per capita rate of identity theft complaints in the United States—with Miami-Fort Lauderdale being the number one area. However, checking your credit report is a proactive approach you can take to prevent or minimize the damage caused by identity theft.
First, even if you do not have a credit monitoring service, everyone is entitled to get it free once every twelve months at www.annualcreditreport.com from the three major credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax, and Transunion). This is the only authorized website to obtain your free credit report.
Second, review your credit report carefully. Only you know what should be on your credit report. Review all sections of your credit report, including inquiries and addresses. Furthermore, if there is any information you do not recognize, such as unauthorized accounts, inquiries, or addresses, you may be a victim of identity theft. If this is the case, these are some steps you should take:
Go to the police department and file a report;
Place a fraud alert with the credit bureaus; and
File a dispute with the credit bureaus as to the unauthorized accounts and incorrect
These steps should help stop any further identity theft, hopefully remove the unauthorized accounts and incorrect information on your credit report and the potential damage past due accounts can cause to your credit, and prevent any surprise collection calls and letters, and potential lawsuits. An attorney can help you enforce your rights in such cases, and dispute the unauthorized accounts or incorrect information with the credit bureaus, creditors and collection agencies. Also, if the unauthorized accounts or incorrect information is not removed and/or corrected, an attorney can advise you of your rights under the Fair Credit Reporting Act.
It is important to take a proactive approach in both the prevention/minimization of Identity Theft and its resolution, should you become its victim.