Virginia & Washington DC Identity Theft FAQs
Quick Information about Identity Theft in Richmond
Blankingship & Christiano, P.C., located in Reston, Virginia, is a top-rated and highly respected consumer protection law firm. We believe that an educated consumer stands the best chance of receiving a satisfactory outcome to an identity theft challenge.
What should I do after learning that my identity has been lost or stolen?
It is essential that you act quickly. The first step that you should take is to immediately contact the credit card company or another creditor that you believe may have fraudulent charges associated with your information, report the theft, and close the account(s) immediately. Next, obtain copies of your credit reports from TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax. You are entitled to one free credit report per year from each company. For details, visit www.annualcreditreport.com. Review the credit reports carefully to determine what items are actually related to your credit and what items are potential fraudulent accounts. Make sure to check the subscriber inquiries section to see if there have been any recent attempts to access credit in your name. For every creditor or account that you believe is fraudulent, contact the creditor immediately, close the account, and see if they have an affidavit of fraud for you to complete. If the creditor does not have a specific affidavit of fraud, you can use the sample affidavit provided by the Federal Trade Commission. After learning the extent of the problem, you should file a police report with your locality, place fraud alerts on your credit file, and notify the Federal Trade Commission. If you have any questions, during this process or need assistance, please feel free to contact our office.
When should I seek the assistance of a consumer law specialist?
Our attorneys talk to you at any point in the process. Depending on your level of time and organization, the initial steps of notifying creditors, reviewing credit reports, and writing dispute letters to the credit reporting agencies do not necessarily require the assistance of a lawyer. However, getting the items removed from your credit report and dealing with harassing calls from debt collectors can be quite daunting when factored in with everything else that goes on in the process. At this point, our law firm can level the playing field and remove the sources of frustration and aggravation.
Am I liable for fraudulent charges on my credit card or for accounts opened by the identity thief?
If you properly complete the many tasks required, you probably will not be held liable for the charges incurred by the identity thief. You have to move quickly, diligently, and properly to protect yourself. You need to send letters to the right people and entities. In the event that you are unable to complete these tasks on your own, contact Blankingship & Christiano, P.C. to help you through this process.
Should I just pay small charges and move on with my life?
No. There is a tendency when the disputed charges are relatively small for creditors and debt collectors to try to persuade you to pay for identity theft charges with an argument that it is easier to pay than to fight them. We do not recommend that you pay debts that are not yours, as you will have a harder time proving that you were the victim of identity theft with other creditors. Moreover, if you pay a collection account, the paid collection can continue to be reported on your credit history as a paid collection account.
What other resources are available to help me with my identity theft situation?
While we are happy to speak to people on the telephone, there are other sources of information where you can read more about identity theft. We would recommend the Federal Trade Commission’s website: ftc.gov/idtheft. Some credit repair organizations advertise that they can solve your credit report problems and purport to help people in exchange for a fee. You should be very wary of these outfits, as most of their services you can complete better by yourself. In the event that your problem becomes too complex, the credit repair organization does not have the resources or ability to file a lawsuit to solve your problems. In our experience, a consumer who follows the proper steps accompanied with a lawsuit when there is a violation of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) will achieve greater success when trying to fix an erroneous credit report.