Category Archives: Identity Theft

I can help you deal with identity theft issues in Alexandria, Arlington, Fairfax, Reston, Sterling, Springfield, Woodbridge, Fredericksburg, Stafford, and Richmond, Virginia

Five Key Rights For Identity Theft Victims

If you are the victim of identity theft in Herndon, Virginia, you have five important rights afforded to you by the Fair Credit Reporting Act.  15 U.S.C. 1681g(d) states that identity theft victims have the following rights:

1.  The right to  place a fraud alert on their credit file.

As of the time of this post, the credit reporting agency fraud alert phone numbers were:

Experian fraud alert phone number (888) 397-3742

Equifax fraud alert phone number   (800) 525-6285

TransUnion fraud alert phone number (800) 680-7289

Remember an initial fraud alert stays on your credit file for 90 days and that you may request an extended fraud alert if you provide a valid identity theft report.

 2.    The right to receive free copies of their credit file.

The initial fraud alert  affords the consumer the chance to obtain a free copy of their credit file.  Consumers should review these copies to determine if the file has any items indicating identity theft including unauthorized accounts, unknown credit inquiries, or inaccurate address information.

3. The right to copies of documents relating to fraudulent transactions.

If a thief has used your personal information to open accounts, a creditor or other business must give you copies of applications and business records involving transactions related to the theft, provided that you ask them in writing.

4. The right to obtain information from a debt collector.

You can stop debt collectors when they improperly collect debts relating to inaccurate credit reporting or identity theft by requesting that the debt collector provide you with information related to the name of the original creditor and the debt.

5. The right to request that a credit reporting agency block identity theft information.

In order to invoke the identity theft blocking provisions under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, you should identify the information to be blocked, state that you did not incur or authorize the charges, provide proof of your identity, and provide a copy of an identity theft police report.

Please review my previous post for more information about remedying identity  theft in Herndon as well as the FTC’s website.  If you need to speak to a credit report lawyer about an identity theft or inaccurate credit reports, please contact me at my Reston office, 703-390-9205.


Initial Fraud Alerts For Identity Theft Victims

If you have a credit report error  or potential identity theft problem in Herndon, Virginia, I would be happy to discuss your situation via the telephone at 703-390-9205.  My law office has handled numerous cases involving credit report mistakes and identity theft, and we are willing to discuss your particular problem.

Sometimes consumers need assistance outside of regular office hours when identity theft is suspected.  In fact, CNN has reported that another American is victimized by identity theft every two seconds, which is shocking. If you feel that you may have been a victim of identity theft, a good first step is to place an initial fraud alert on your credit file because an initial fraud alert should slow down an identity thief’s actions in establishing more credit in your name.

15 U.S.C. 1681 c-1(a)(1) of the Fair Credit Reporting Act was established to help consumers stop the identity thief.  This provision provides that a consumer may request an initial fraud alert provided a good faith suspicion exists that the consumer may have been an identity theft victim.  The initial fraud alert is designed to be a “one-call” alert with all three major credit reporting agencies placing the initial fraud alert on a consumer’s credit file as long as any one of the three credit reporting agencies are notified by a consumer. Once the consumer notes the initial fraud alert, 15 U.S.C. 1681 c-1(h)(1)(B)(i), provides that a user extending credit should “utilize reasonable policies and procedures to form a reasonable belief that the user knows the identity of the person making the request.”

If you need the fraud alert phone numbers for Experian, TransUnion, and Experian, please see my previous post on what you can do if you may have been a victim of identity theft , or simply call me at my office in Reston, Virginia to discuss your credit report error or identity theft.




3 Notices From The IRS Indicating An Identity Theft Problem

Identity theft involving IRS tax returns has become an ever increasing problem over the last four years. According to Treasury Department reports, more than five billion dollars in improper refund checks may have been issued to identity thieves in 2011 alone.  If you have an IRS identity theft problem, the agency has established a procedure to assist victims on the identity theft page of the IRS website. As identified on the IRS website, three types of IRS notices can indicate that you may have an identity theft problem with the IRS. The three notices or letters indicating a problem are:

  1. You filed more than one return.
  2. You have a balance due, refund offset, or collection action for a year that you did not file a return.
  3. You received wages from an employer that you do not recognize.

If you receive any of these notices and think that you may be a victim of identity theft, the IRS requests that you take immediate action via an IRS identity theft affidavit.  The details regarding how to complete the affidavit and more information about the process can be found on the IRS website.

If I believed that I had an IRS identity theft problem, after notifying the IRS,  I would also immediately obtain a copy of all three of my credit reports from the credit reporting agencies and look for the signs indicating an identity theft problem on my credit file. If you think that you have been the victim of identity theft, you can review my previous post on the actions that you can take to combat your identity theft problem including links to assist you with identity theft reporting in Virginia.  if you have any questions about how to review your file, I have also discussed how to review your credit file disclosure . For additional questions about identity theft or inaccurate credit reports, you can always contact me at 703-390-9205.


The Four Things You Must Provide To Invoke Your Identity Theft Blocking Rights.

Unfortunately, when I meet with identity theft victims in my Reston, Virginia office, most do not understand the necessary steps that they must take to recover from the problems associated with identity theft.  A previous blog post discussed what you should do if you are the victim of identity theft which included police contact information so that identity theft victims in Richmond, Henrico, Stafford, Prince William, Loudoun, Fairfax, Arlington, or Alexandria may obtain identity theft police reports. This post will describe the protections that identity theft victims have under the FCRA’s identity theft blocking statute, 15 U.S.C. 1681c-2.

The identity theft blocking statute is a mechanism that allows identity theft victims to block identity theft related accounts from reporting on their credit report.  By invoking the block, the victim can begin the process of recovering their good credit history.  To invoke the block, the FCRA requires that the identity theft victim provide four things to a consumer reporting agency:

  1. appropriate proof of identity;
  2. a copy of the identity theft report;
  3. identification of the accounts related to the identity theft; and
  4. a statement from the consumer that the accounts are not related to any transaction by the consumer.

If a consumer provides this information, the CRA must block the identified information within four business days. Next, the CRA has to notify the creditors of the block including the dates that the block will remain in effect. Because various exceptions to the requirements exist in the statute, an identity theft victim would be wise to consult with a lawyer that specializes in identity theft issues.  I am always happy to speak with identity theft victims at 703-390-9205.




Obtain A Free Copy of Your Credit Report After A Credit Denial.

When a consumer suffers an adverse action after applying for credit, the Fair Credit Reporting Act requires the user of the credit report to send the consumer a notification of the credit denial if that user took the adverse action in whole or in part because of information contained in the credit report.  The credit denial letter has various requirements including notification of the reason(s) for the credit denial, notification of the credit reporting agencies that provided the user with the credit report, and notification that the consumer has the right to obtain a free copy of their credit report from the CRA.  The full rights of the consumer can be found at 15 U.S.C. 1681m(a).

Given that 15 U.S.C. 1681j(b) of the FCRA requires a credit reporting agency to provide a consumer with a free copy of their credit report after credit denial, consumers should obtain their credit file after receiving notice of the credit denial.  To enforce this right, the statute requires that the consumer request the free report within 60 days of receipt of the notification of credit denial.

It is always good to review a copy of your credit file even if you think you know the source of your credit problems. In many instances, consumers have derogatory credit accounts on their credit report that belong to another consumer, unauthorized accounts, or accounts that are reporting too much negative information for the circumstances.  Carefully review all of the accounts that appear on your credit report.  For suggestions on how to review the contents of your credit report, please see my prior post on the topic of how to examine your credit report:

Finally, adverse action letters can be your first notification that you have been the victim of identity theft.  If a consumer has an existing credit line and the bank closes that credit line because of derogatory credit references, the bank must send you notice of that adverse action including the identity of the credit reporting agency that provided the creditor with the credit report.  For identity theft victims, the derogatory identity theft related accounts will cause their creditors to close or limit existing credit lines because of the change in credit history.  Accordingly, a consumer should never ignore a notice of credit denial letter because it can be the first clue that an identity theft problem exists.  Remember that are important items to consider if you may have been the victim of identity theft.

Funishers must report that your credit account is disputed after notification.

Under the FCRA, a furnisher must include a notation that your account is disputed as part of its response to a credit reporting agency if you have previously disputed the accuracy of the account.  The furnisher must include this notation even if it believes that you are responsible for the debt associated with the account.  Furnishers that fail to include this notation as part of a response to a dispute reinvestigation may have violated the FCRA and caused significant damage to your credit score.

The reason that a furnisher must include the notation that a consumer disputed the credit reporting for the account is found in 15 U.S.C. 1681s-2b(b)(1)(C) of the Fair Credit Reporting Act.  This provision requires a furnisher to report the results of its dispute reinvestigation to the credit reporting agency. Because furnishers must report accurate information that is not misleading, a furnisher must indicate that the consumer previously disputed the credit account to provide a complete representation of the account status.  When a furnisher fails to note that the consumer disputed the credit reporting of the account, it provides misleading information that the account is simply a refusal to pay and not a genuine material dispute as to whether the consumer is liable for the debt reported on the credit report.

For identity theft victims, the failure to report a debt as disputed can undermine the victim’s ability to have inaccurate accounts removed from their credit report.  When debt collectors, furnishers, and credit reporting agencies see past due accounts that are not marked disputed, those entities may be inclined to believe that the consumer is not being truthful about the time period related to the identity theft or the scope of the identity theft.  Any doubt that the victim is not being truthful about the circumstances of the identity theft can undermine the ability of the identity theft victim to restore their good credit history.

Finally, a consumer wants the disputed accounts reported as disputed because the notation can alter how the account is scored in credit scoring models. Some credit score models do not include disputed accounts when determining the consumer’s credit score. Accordingly, if a derogatory account is not scored, you will have a higher credit score than if the derogatory account was included.  As with all items in a consumer credit file, you should review the file so that it includes information that accurately reflects how you manage your credit history.

Help, I AM the victim of identity theft!

If you have discovered that you are the victim of identity theft, I would recommend that you act quickly and decisively to stop the thief as soon as possible.  The main things that you want to do are: place a fraud alert on your credit files, file a report with your local police department, contact the creditors who have had fraudulent accounts opened or accessed by the identity thief, and file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission.  As to these activities, you should consider the following:

FRAUD ALERT– As discussed in another blog post, you should place fraud alerts on your credit file.  The fraud alert should slow the identity thief from opening up any new accounts.  If you contact one credit reporting agency, they are supposed to contact the other two.  If you have confirmation of an identity theft problem, I would call or notify all credit report agencies.  The fraud alert numbers presently are:

Trans Union fraud alert phone number 1-800-680-7289

Equifax Fraud alert phone number 1-800-526-6285

Experian Fraud alert phone number 1-888-397-3742

NOTIFY LOCAL POLICE OF IDENTITY THEFT– You can call your local police and see what their procedure is for filing an identity theft police report.  You need to take the time to file a police report because creditors and credit reporting agencies typically want to see that you filed a police report as an indication that your claim is genuine.  Having a police report will also help trigger important identity theft victim rights under the Fair Credit Reporting Act. In the county of my residence, Fairfax County, Virginia, identity theft reports can sometimes be difficult to obtain in person because our county is so large and busy.  The following links should help people in Virginia report identity theft to the police:

Alexandria, Virginia identity theft police report information: Non-emergency phone number (703) 838-4444.

Arlington County, Virginia identity theft police report information:

Fairfax County, Virginia identity theft police report information:

Henrico County, Virginia identity theft police report information:

Loudoun County, Virginia identiy theft police report information:

Prince William County, Virginia identity theft police report information:

Richmond, Virginia identity theft police report information:

Stafford, Virginia identity theft ploice report information: Non-emergency phone number (540) 658-4450

CONTACT CREDITORS– Contact the creditor directly and request to speak to someone in the fraud department. You should keep a log of your contacts, including the name of the person, what they told you, and what actions that you took as a result of the contact.  You should send these creditors a written communication by certified mail with information about your identity theft, a statement that you did not open the account and/or make the disputed charges, and identify the police report number with investigating officer if possible.  My personal belief is that you must prove your innocence. Do not assume creditors will believe you, or that the creditor will do what they tell you that they are going to do, follow-up. Keep a separate file for each creditor and maintain copies of all documents that you receive or send to each creditor.  You may be asked to complete a fraud affidavit .  If you receive one, make sure that you complete the document properly and return it as soon as possible.

NOTIFY THE FTC– The Federal Trade Commission has wonderful and free resources for identity theft victims.  I recommend that you use the FTC website as a reference source.  The FTC also logs identity theft complaints in order to stop and slow down identity thieves.  It is recommended that you notify the FTC when you are the victim of identity theft.  You can call the FTC at 1-877-438-4338 or contact them on-line to report identity theft,

Dealing with the problems associated with identity theft can be time consuming and a roller coaster of emotions as you work through the situation.  If you have any questions or need any assitance, please contact me at 571-313-0412.





Help, I MIGHT have been a victim of identity theft!

I received a call this week in my Reston, Virginia office from a person who thought they may have been the victim of identity theft.   Ordinarily, this is not an uncommon event, but this situation was different because it was my wife.  I can tell you that it was a little unnerving to hear her tell me about the potential problem, and I have a new found empathy for people who may have been identity theft victims.

In my opinion, the first move at even the hint of a potential identity theft is to place fraud alerts on your credit files to alert potential credit grantors that you may be a victim.  With a fraud alert on your credit report,  you should stop or slow down the identity thief from opening up any new credit accounts. The system is supposed to work in a manner that allows you to contact either Equifax, Trans Union, or Experian. Once you contact the credit reporting agency and request a fraud alert, the first credit reporting agency is supposed to notify the other two credit reporting agencies.  At the time of this posting, the phone numbers to place a fraud alert on your credit file are:

Equifax fraud alert phone number: 1-800-525-6285

Experian fraud alert phone number: 1-888-397-3742

Trans Union fraud alert phone number: 1-800-680-7289

Next, I recommend that you obtain copies of your credit files from the credit reporting agencies.  After obtaining a copy of your credit file, check the open accounts to make sure that you initiated all of the accounts that appear on your credit report.  You should also check the inquiries to see if there are any credit inquiries that you did not initiate or do not recognize.  If you don’t see any new or unknown credit accounts or inquiries that you did not initiate, you might not have an identity theft problem.  I would recommend periodic monitoring of your credit files to make sure that no unauthorized accounts or inquiries appear on your credit report.

If you review your credit report and find accounts that you did not open or initiate, then you have moved from a potential identity theft victim to an actual identity theft victim.  At this point, you will want to go into full identity theft defense mode, which will be the topic of another blog post.

I would also recommend monitoring your existing accounts.  Call your credit card company to make sure there are no charges that you did not make.  Check to make sure no one has claimed to be a new authorized user of an existing account, changed the address on the account, or requested a new credit card for the account.  Check with you banking institution to make sure there have been no changes to any deposit accounts.

For more information from the Federal Trade Commission, I recommend:  As always, if you have any individual questions, I recommend that you contact a lawyer that specializes in credit report litigation in your area. For Virginia consumers, I can be reached at 571-313-0412.