Many of us find to our surprise that someone has made unauthorized charges on a credit card, or bank debit card, or opened a charge account in our name which we never heard of. Sometimes a debt collector calls. While Identity Theft is a crime, the problems it creates for you are civil in nature.
File a Police Report.
It is very important that you file a police report, even though the police will probably not catch the thief or solve the crime. You need to get a case number and a copy of a document from the police confirming that you reported identity theft. The city or county where you live is the place to make the report, even if the false transactions occurred elsewhere. Filing a police report shows the credit card companies that you are serious and willing to back up your position.
Sign Forgery Affidavits
For the disputed transactions, you need to sign a forgery affidavit. If the same credit card account has multiple unauthorized transactions, then you can include them in one affidavit by listing out the date, the amount and the vendor or description for each. A "forgery" includes an unauthorized transaction even if no signature was provided by the criminal. The affidavit needs to say something like: I did not engage in this transaction nor did I authorize anyone else to do so. I did not receive the goods, services, or benefits from these transactions. Drafting a forgery affidavit is something you may need to pay an attorney to do. Sneaky banks and credit card companies will not tell you this, but it is almost always in your best interest to sign a forgery affidavit and send it to them. If you do not, if you just place a phone call to dispute it, then later the bank can say that there is insufficient evidence to support your dispute (a forgery affidavit would be evidence
Confirm All Disputes In Writing
It is fine to call your bank, credit card company or other establishment and tell them you did not authorize the transaction in question, but YOU MUST CONFIRM IT IN WRITING. Even a hand written note is fine. Be sure to keep a copy. Date the letter or note. The important thing is simply to state that it is an unauthorized transaction. Include a forgery affidavit. Send the letter by certified mail with return receipt requested. This will cost about $6.00 in postage, but it is worth it because it gives you proof that the bank received your envelope. Other ways of delivery are OK also, but proof of receipt is worth a few dollars.
The rules is simple: the bank can not charge you for unauthorized transactions. However, when a consumer unreasonably delays in making a written report to the bank, then the consumer gives up that right. You must act promptly to protect your rights, and you must do it in writing. Also, you need to review your monthly statements when they arrive in order to catch any unauthorized transactions. Even if you are a couple of months late, still report the disputed transactions in writing. Deadlines for such reporting vary, depending on many factors, and could be as short as 30 days from when you received the monthly statement showing the first disputed transactions, so review your statements promptly and report anything suspicious it in writing asap.
If Letter Writing to Bank Does Not Work, Then File a Lawsuit
Many times a letter writing campaign, with forgery affidavits, will persuade the bank to credit back to you the unauthorized transactions. However, if that does not work, there are, in many states, relatively easy and inexpensive procedures to obtain from a court a declaration that you are the victim of identity theft. Such a court order should be respected by the credit bureaus so that fraudulent accounts are removed. Do not be intimidated by the fact that the bank is a large institution with expensive lawyers. The only issue is whether or not YOU authorized the transactions in issue, and if all the proof is on your side, then you win with the judge.
Phone calls and letter from debt collectors can be very aggravating, especially when it was a fraudulent debt or account that you did not create or authorize. Write a letter to each collector telling them not to call you but only to communicate with you in writing, and that you dispute the debt or transaction as not being authorized by you. Request that they send you copies of any document allegedly signed by you. Keep a copy of the letter. Send it by certified mail or other way to get a proof of receipt. If they disregard this letter, then they have violated the Federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, and owe you $ and attorney's fees. Typically such a letter will cause the debt collecior to close their file and report back to the bank that the debt is disputed. Many times the bank will then refer the debt to a new collection company without telling them that you already disputed the debt. This is abusive, but you should just write another letter just like with the first one