The House Financial Services Subcommittee on Financial Institutions and Consumer Credit is examining bipartisan legislation that would amend the Fair Credit Reporting Act. The new legislation, entitled “The Protecting Veterans Credit Act of 2017,” would exclude certain medical debts incurred by a veteran from their credit report if the medical services predate the credit report by less than one year. The new legislation also includes a dispute process for consumer reporting agencies to handle veterans’ disputes. The one-year delay in reporting provides time for the VA and its contractors to resolve billing and copay issues with the veteran before the veteran incurs derogatory credit reporting.
Veterans are among the hardest-hit group of Americans in terms of credit and collections. Assuming the bill passes, this bipartisan legislation will be a great step forward in assisting veterans to improve their creditworthiness.
As we enter a new year, Nevada consumers should spend some time focusing on their finances and credit. Here are 3 helpful tips to get you on your way to financial success in 2018:
2. Focus on Savings
Automating savings each month using online tools from your bank will help keep you on track. As stated, a good rule of thumb for savings is 20% of your income.
3. Check your credit profiles regularly
It is imperative to check your credit reports regularly to make sure you are not a victim of identity theft and to ensure your accounts are reporting accurately. You may obtain free yearly reports from www.annualcreditreport.com and may also check your credit profiles using monitoring sites such as Credit Karma.
Former NBA player and Las Vegas resident Kermit Washington has pleaded guilty to three felony charges, including aggravated identity theft and filing false tax returns. Mr. Washington and other cohorts engaged in a charity fraud scheme and used victims’ identity illegally to further the fraud. He will face up to eight years in prison and fines of up to $750,000.
The continued prevalence of identity theft here in Nevada and around the United States makes it more important than ever for consumers to pull their credit reports often. You can access your official three-bureau credit reports through annualcreditreport.com.
With over 1.2 million Nevadans affected by the recent Equifax data breach, many Nevada consumers are rightfully concerned about how to protect their identities. There are two main options to protect yourself from future fraudulent credit reporting: a fraud alert or a credit freeze.
The decision regarding which option is best comes down to the personal financial situation and preference of the consumer. If you are planning to open credit accounts in the near future, it may be advisable to initiate a fraud alert rather than a full credit freeze. Consumers should consult their attorneys and financial advisors to discuss their best options to stay protected.
The Nevada Attorney General’s Office announced that at least 1.2 million Nevadans have been affected by the Equifax data breach. Many of those Nevada consumers reside here in Las Vegas and Henderson.
As discussed in previous posts, it is imperative for Las Vegas and Henderson consumers to obtain a copy of their most recent credit reports from Equifax, Experian, and Trans Union and to review those reports for fraudulent information and errors. I also suggest considering credit freezes and fraud alerts to reduce dramatically the chance of identity theft in the future.
If you find fraudulent information on your credit reports, you should obtain a police report and fill out an FTC Identity Theft Victim’s Complaint and Affidavit. These documents, along with proof of identity, should be sent to each bureau via certified mail. The bureaus have four business days to block the fraudulent information and 30 days to investigate the matter with the lenders and creditors and to provide you a corrected report.
If the bureaus and lenders fail to update your information within 30 days, you have a legal claim against each party in which your attorney’s fees and costs are covered if you prevail. Additionally, you are entitled to a corrected credit report, statutory damages of up to $1,000, and possible actual and punitive damages.
Equifax revealed on Thursday that as many as 143 million Americans had their personal information exposed during a hack that took place sometime between mid-May and July 2017. This breach is one of the largest cybersecurity hacks to date.
The security breach placed at risk highly sensitive consumer information such as Social Security numbers, credit card information, names, birth dates, and addresses. Unlike other recent data breaches, such as the Target hack, those affected by the Equifax breach may not even know they're customers of the company.
Equifax is proposing that customers sign up for credit monitoring and identity theft protection through its free service called TrustedID Premier. To enroll and/or check whether you were affected, visit www.equifaxsecurity2017.com and click on the Check Potential Impact tab. You'll need to provide your last name and the last six digits of your social security number. Once submitted, Equifax will advise whether you may have been affected. If you choose to enroll, each customer is provided an enrollment date starting earliest on Monday.
The catch to this service is that by enrolling you may be limiting your rights to sue and may be forced to arbitrate your disputes. However, you may opt out of the arbitration provision by notifying Equifax in writing within 30 days. Even if you fail to opt out, legal precedent may be on your side to circumvent the arbitration provision, which is why it is vital to discuss your rights with a consumer attorney.
This latest breach is yet another stark reminder to Nevada consumers that they must consistently monitor their credit profiles for fraudulent information and errors. Prevention and early detection are key elements to protecting your identity from data thieves. If you find out you may be a victim of this breach, you have rights under a federal law known as the Fair Credit Reporting Act. To assert these rights, you must alert the credit bureaus of the fraud using a police report and FTC affidavit. If the lenders and bureaus fail to update, you have the right to bring a federal lawsuit and to obtain credit correction along with damages and attorney's fees and costs.
Nevada is the 5th most vulnerable state for identity theft and fraud, according to a 2016 study by WalletHub. Many of those Nevadans affected by identity theft reside here in Las Vegas and Henderson. The study looked at factors such as the number of identity theft complaints filed by consumers within each state, and the amount of money taken by identity thieves.
To protect yourself against identity theft, remember to check your national credit reports (Equifax, Experian, and Trans Union) regularly. If you find errors or fraudulent accounts, you should file a police report and prepare an FTC Identity Theft Victim's Complaint and Affidavit. Send each of these reports to the credit bureaus via certified mail. The bureaus have 4 business days to block the fraudulent information and 30 days to provide you an updated and accurate report. If the bureaus and lenders fail to update your information completely, you have a legal claim against them in which you may receive monetary damages, attorney's fees and costs, and credit correction.
Other important security measures to protect against identity theft include: keeping your personal documents and information secure, checking bank statements regularly, and reporting suspicious bank activity immediately.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit held that an inaccurate consumer report established concrete injury sufficient to confer standing to sue in federal court. On remand from a prior Supreme Court appeal, the Ninth Circuit issued a decision on August 15, 2017 finding that the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) protects consumers from harm to their reputation and privacy interests. The court further held that publishing false information in a credit report can itself constitute concrete harm. Specifically, the court found that by producing an inaccurate credit report, the defendant had distributed a materially inaccurate report resulting in injury to the plaintiff.
Through this decision, the Ninth Circuit applied an expansive interpretation of standing to sue in federal court. Although the original case was filed in California, the ruling applies equally to consumers here in Las Vegas/Henderson and throughout Nevada as we are within the Ninth Circuit’s jurisdiction. As a result, consumers in Nevada are permitted to bring claims against credit bureaus and lenders who report inaccurate information on their credit reports whether or not the consumers have experienced monetary damages like loan denials, out-of-pocket expenses, or increase in interest rates.
Ultimately, the Ninth Circuit found that having an inaccurate and misleading credit reporting is damaging enough to a consumer’s privacy and reputational interest to warrant a lawsuit to remedy this harm. If you have experienced inaccurate credit reporting, you may be entitled to damages under the FCRA, correction of the inaccurate reporting, and payment of your attorney’s fees and costs.
A Las Vegas lab tech was sentenced to two years in prison this week for unlawfully obtaining the personal information of patients to open personal credit cards. The tech, who worked at Children's Heart Center in Las Vegas, accessed the personal information of patient's parents through the center's records and used the center's computers to apply for multiple credit accounts.
As discussed in previous posts, identity theft has hit a record high in the U.S. with over 15.4 million cases reported in 2016 causing approximately $16 billion in losses. As a result, it is important for Las Vegas consumers to protect their identity by keeping personal documents secure, regularly checking credit reports, and only disclosing personal information when absolutely necessary.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) spotlighted its credit reporting complaints in a recent report submitted in February 2017. The bureau also submitted a special advisory report detailing ongoing problems in the credit-reporting industry.
According to these reports, 76% of credit-reporting complaints received by the CFPB concern the accuracy of information in consumers’ credit reports. Regarding Nevada consumers, the report highlighted over 13,000 separate complaints, many of which concerned consumers residing here in Las Vegas and Henderson.
Regarding furnishers of information (e.g. banks, credit card companies, etc.), the bureau stresses the importance of policies and procedures for proper recordkeeping to avoid credit reporting mistakes. The CFPB recommends that furnishers update their employee training and institute oversight and compliance procedures to prevent these issues in the future.
Regarding credit bureaus, the reports make clear that they must vet information coming from the furnishers to ensure accuracy. The CFPB expects that the bureaus will adhere to the 30-day timeline for resolving consumer disputes outlined in the Fair Credit Reporting Act, and provide notices describing the outcome of each investigation.