The Federal Trade Commission defines identity theft as the use of your name, Social Security number, date of birth or other identifying information without authority to commit fraud.
Rights of identity theft victims
Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, victims of identity theft have a number of rights to help them recover.
- Fraud alerts - People who suspect they have been the victim of identity theft have the right to ask potential creditors and credit reporting agencies to place a "fraud alert" in their file. A call to one credit reporting agency will lead to a fraud alert with all three major agencies. An initial fraud alert stays in place for at least 90 days. An extended alert remains in place for seven years.
Requesting an extended alert requires the filing of an identity theft report.The Federal Trade Commission has developed an ID theft affidavit that allows victims to report information to the FTC and to many companies using one standard form.
- Free copies of credit files - An initial fraud alert entitles a consumer to all information on file with each of the three credit reporting agencies. An extended alert allows two free file disclosures in a 12-month period after placing the alert.
- Right to documents - A creditor or business must provide copies of applications and other business records relating to transactions and accounts resulting from identity theft. The records must be requested in writing.
- Debt collector information - A debt collector must provide identity theft victims with information relating to a debt incurred as a result of identity theft. This information includes the creditor's name and the amount of the debt.
- Information block - Individuals have the right to block information from their credit reports that results from identity theft.
- Reporting ban - Consumers may prevent businesses from reporting information to credit reporting agencies that is related to identity theft.
Electronic Fund Transfer Act
This act provides consumer protection for all transactions using a debit card or electronic means to debit or credit an account. It limits a consumer's liability for unauthorized electronic fund transfers, but that limit is not as protective as the $50 limit on fraudulent credit card transactions.
The loss depends on how quickly a consumer reports the loss of an ATM or debit card:
- Loss reported before card used without permission - Consumer not responsible for any unauthorized withdrawals.
- Loss reported within two business days - Liability limited to $50.
- Loss reported after two business days but within 60 days of account statement mailing - Liability limited to $500.
- Loss reported 60 days or later after mailing of account statement - Liability is unlimited.
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