What to Do If You See Your Shadow (in the Form of an Identity Thief)

Groundhog Day AGAIN?  Why, it seems like the last one was just yesterday …

Of course, I’m referring to the classic Bill Murray romantic comedy “Groundhog Day.”  Bill plays a TV weatherman reporter covering the groundhog Punxsutawney Phil’s annual moment in the sun (or the shade).  The “next” day, the hapless reporter discovers that every day is Groundhog Day, over and over again.

If there’s anything worse than being the same person on the same eternal day, it’s being a different person EVERY day.  That’s what it’s like if you’re a victim of identity theft — and it’s neither romantic nor a comedy.

If someone steals your name, birth date, social security number and so on, you could find yourself on the wrong end of a lawsuit when creditors try to collect the debts the thief has run up. Meanwhile, your hard-earned credit score could take a big hit.

Even before you contact an attorney, we recommend you complete four things yourself.

Before You Contact an Attorney

Above all, file a police report.  Some police stations let you file online, but if that’s not an option, speak in person to an officer or deputy and let her know that the law requires you to file a report.

One peculiarity of some identity theft laws is that you are not defined as a “victim” of identity theft until you file a police report!  Yes, that’s a strange definition of the word “victim,” but it lets the authorities know you are serious and not just claiming that the dog ate your homework.

Make Photocopies & Write Statements

Our next recommendations are to make a photocopy of your driver license or other state-issued ID, and a photocopy of one of your recent utility bills with your current address. These are important because they prepare you for if/when you have to submit these photocopies to law enforcement or attorneys as you continue your journey.

At Mlnarik Law, our fourth recommendation is to write a statement describing the particulars of the theft and your attempt to report it to the creditor and its attorney. For example, if your theft involved a credit card, give the credit card name, account number, social security number, and phone number, and say how much was fraudulently charged and for how long.

If your address has chanced either since your ID was last issued or some/all of the identity theft occurred, it’s important to give the dates you moved and any additional interim addresses.  Finally, above your signature, write: “I certify the representations made are true, correct, and contain no material omissions of fact.”

Send Your Records to Top 3 Credit Reporting Agencies

Once you’ve completed all of the above steps, gather everything together with a cover letter that states that you are reporting the information as a “Request that Creditor be Notified of Identity Theft Under 15 USC Section 1681c-2.” This should also be the statement in the “Re:” line at the top of your letter template. Then send it all to the following addresses (accurate as of February 2012):

Equifax Security Freeze
P.O. Box 105788
Atlanta, GA 30348

Experian Security Freeze
P.O. Box 9554
Allen, TX 75013

TransUnion Fraud Victim Assistance Department
P.O. Box 6790
Fullerton, CA 92834

Who To CC Your Copies To

It’s also important to send copies to the creditor or (if the debt has been repackaged) to the debt collector who contacted you, and to send another set of copies to any attorney who has contacted you in an attempt to collect the debt. At the bottom of the template copy, add a “CC” indicating all the places you’ll send the cover letter and copies (since every letter will be the same except for the address to which it’s sent).

Having done all the necessary “self-help” work presented above, it is necessary to contact an attorney. If you are being sued you must answer the suit usually within 30 days, and (if advisable) file a cross-complaint with your answer.

The cross-complaint enables you to request damages from the debt collector (sometimes including attorney fees) if the suit against you unreasonably goes forward, or if the attempts to collect the fraudulent debt don’t stop.  Even if you’re citing federal law, your cross-complaint can be filed in the state court hearing the suit against you; you also have the option to request that the suit be removed to federal court, and still include state claims.

Contact Mlnarik Law Attorneys

This Groundhog Day, if you see your shadow in the form of someone pretending to be you, give the Mlnarik Law Group a call at (408) 919-0088 or use our contact form to reach out to an expert attorney.  We’ll “whack-a-mole” those debt collectors back into the hole where they belong, but for you the winter of your discontent will be over.