The Equifax data breach reportedly impacts roughly 143 million U.S. consumers. New information continues to develop including reports of previous alleged breaches. The information accessed included names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses, driver’s license numbers, credit card numbers, and other personally identifying information.
Unfortunately, data breaches and identity theft are a part of modern life, and the Equifax breach is just one example. In light of the breach, it is important for consumers to be aware of their rights and options for credit protection. Some recommended steps to protect your identity include ordering an annual free credit report each year from www.annualcreditreport.com (or call 877-322-8228), regularly monitoring your bank accounts and credit card statements, and taking note when companies with which you do not have a relationship call you. These simple steps can help you recognize and counteract fraud in an efficient manner.
Federal law provides injured consumers a right to monetary relief, which may include legal costs and attorney’s fees. If you notice improper items on your credit report, improper charges on your credit accounts, and calls from unknown companies, you may have a claim for monetary damages against the offending company.
Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), you have the right to dispute any improper account on your credit report with the credit bureaus and the furnisher of the account. Often, a dispute is ineffective and consumers become frustrated and give up, but you should persevere. The FCRA provides a right of action for consumers when the bureaus and account furnisher do not properly respond to a credit dispute. In addition to removal of the improper account, the consumer may be entitled to monetary damages, legal costs, and the consumer’s attorney’s fees. But don’t stop there! Identity theft and data breaches can also lower your credit score by causing creditors to perform a credit analysis on you without your consent. Luckily, the FCRA provides relief for this as well, so investigate what companies have pulled your credit report.
If you are receiving calls from unknown companies claiming you have an account with them or owe them money, you may have a claim under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) or Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). In short, the TCPA provides damages on a per call basis when a company calls a consumer’s cellular telephone, without their consent, using an automatic dialing system or a prerecorded/artificial message. The consumer may be entitled to $500 per call!
The FDCPA protects consumers from a breadth of unfair and harassing collection practices. The FDCPA allows the consumer to recover damages, costs, and their attorney’s fees. Further, calls from unknown companies can be indicators there may be something improper on your credit report. If you are getting calls from businesses and debt collectors with whom you do not have a relationship, check your credit report and talk to a lawyer.
If you are the victim of identity theft, it is important to understand your rights. Connect with an attorney for free with a Rocket Lawyer Premium Membership. Ask an On Call attorney about your specific situation and get a personalized answer within one business day, or schedule a free 30-minute consultation.
This article contains general legal information and does not contain legal advice. Rocket Lawyer is not a law firm or a substitute for an attorney or law firm. The law is complex and changes often. For legal advice, please ask a lawyer.