Identity Theft Victim's Bill of Rights
Identity theft victims are protected by several specific laws and policies. It is important for people who are victims or suspect they have been victims to understand their rights.
I. The right to request fraud alerts
If you believe that you may be a victim of identity theft, you have the right to place a fraud alert on your credit reports. A fraud alert is like a flag attached to your credit report that notifies creditors and lenders that you may be a victim of identity theft and warns them to check your identity before opening new accounts. Lenders must verify your identity when there is a fraud alert on your account. Although creditors are NOT required to contact you, they may attempt to contact you.
You can request an initial alert for 90 days, or an extended alert for up to seven years. You can extend or remove fraud alerts by contacting the credit bureau in writing. The extended seven year alert also removes you from the pre-approved marketing list and allows you to receive two free copies of your credit reports within 12 months. There is a chart explaining the different kinds of alerts at the end of this article.
If you are on active status in the military, you may place an alert in your report for one year. Like the fraud alerts, the burden is on the lender to make sure it is you asking for an extension of credit before granting it in your name. This is a preventative measure to protect you from identity theft when you are deployed.
You only need to contact one of the three national credit bureaus (commonly referred to as CRAs, or “credit reporting agencies”) in order to place alerts on all three of your credit reports:
II. The right to free copies of your credit reports
You have the right to request free copies of your credit report once a year when you feel that your credit data may be inaccurate due to fraud or identity theft. You can request these free identity theft credit reports from Equifax (mail request), Experian (phone request), and TransUnion (online request). This right is independent of your access to free annual credit reports through AnnualCreditReport.com.
When you request fraud alerts from the credit bureaus, you are automatically sent free copies of each of your credit reports. These free credit reports are provided by the credit bureaus to assist you in identifying fraudulent activity.
III. The right to freeze your credit records if you live in certain states
A fraud alert is a message in your credit report that flags an account telling a creditor that there may be fraud involved on that account. A security freeze prevents creditors, insurance companies, or employers doing background checks to access your report. If you live in California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Louisiana, Maine, Nevada, New Jersey, North Carolina, Texas, Vermont, or Washington, you have the right to freeze your credit records. When you freeze your credit report, you restrict creditors, insurance companies, and employers fromaccessing your credit data without your express permission. This freeze protects you from a thief opening accounts in your name but can also make it inconvenient to apply for credit yourself.
File freeze laws vary by state. You may have to prove that you are an identity theft victim or pay a fee for this service. Read a full list of the file freeze laws online here. You can request a "file freeze" by phoning or sending a formal request by certified mail to each credit bureau:
Include a copy of the police report, payment information (if fees apply), your address, date of birth, proof of residence, and Social Security number with your file freeze letter. Credit bureaus have five business days after receiving your written request to freeze your account.
Once you freeze your report, you cannot open a new account or get a new loan until you lift the freeze. In most states, you can choose to lift a freeze for a specific period of time or for a specific creditor. The credit bureaus will provide you with directions on how to lift the freeze when you freeze the account...Credit bureaus have three business days to lift a freeze after receiving your request.
IV. The right to be not held liable for fraudulent purchases
Several laws protect consumers from being held responsible for purchases made by an identity thief. In most cases, you are not held liable for more than $50 as long as you report the fraud to the financial institution in a timely manner. Although you may be legally liable for up to $50 of fraudulent charges, most banks and credit card companies don’t ask you to pay this amount in the event of identity theft.
V. The right to obtain records related to your identity theft case
You have the right to obtain documents relating to fraudulent transactions or new accounts opened illegally using your personal information. The best way to request these documents is by sending a letter to the creditor. The business should ask you for proof of your identity and copies of your identity theft files before granting this request. Only under certain circumstances can the business can turn down your document request.
VI. The right to obtain records from a debt collector
Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, a debt collector is required to report to the creditor that a debt may be fraudulent as soon as he or she learns about it. Additionally, debt collectors are prohibited from selling or transferring debts out for collection that they know are fraudulent. You have the right to obtain specific information from a debt collector when you believe there is a fraudulent debt in your name. A debt collector must provide you with the name of the original creditor and the amount of the debt.
VII. The right to dispute fraudulent records on your credit report
You can request that the credit bureaus – Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion – remove records related to fraud or identity theft from your credit reports. The process for disputing identity theft records is nearly the same as disputing other types of inaccuracies. You need to send a dispute request to each credit bureau along with proof of your identity, details about the fraud, and a copy of your police report.
The credit bureau will investigate your dispute and determine whether or not to make the change. Your dispute request could be rejected if you do not provide sufficient evidence. If the change is made to your credit report, the record should remain off your file permanently.
VIII. You have the right to ask that the credit reporting agencies block information from your file.
You can ask that a CRA block information about bills that an identity thief has run up. If an item is blocked, a business or person with notice of the block is not permitted to sell, transfer, or try to collect on the debt.. To block information, you must provide a copy of your identity theft report and proof of your identity. The credit bureau can refuse or cancel your request for a block if you don’t provide the necessary information or if the block results in an error or a material misrepresentation of facts made by you. The CRA is required to notify you if it decides not to block the information. Contact the three nationwide credit bureaus to block an item in your report.
Comparisons of Fraud Alerts
A high credit score often equals savings on loans and credit cards.
/life of loan
/life of loan