A new Harris poll shows increased fear of identity theft and financial loss among US consumers. The poll finds that 48% of US adults believe identity theft will cause them financial losses in the next year. 81% of respondents are concerned that businesses will be unable to protect their personal and financial data.
These new fears are well-founded in light of the recent Equifax data breach and the rise in instances of identity theft and fraud throughout the US, including here in Las Vegas. To protect yourself, it is important to pull your credit report at least once a year from annualcreditreport.com and review the reports thoroughly to make sure there are no fraudulent accounts or inquiries.
If you find fraudulent or inaccurate credit information, you must alert the credit bureaus either online or via certified mail of the errors and provide a police report. You should also request a fraud alert or credit freeze to prevent future damage.
If the bureaus and lenders fail to update your credit reports after 30 days from your credit dispute, you should hire a Las Vegas identity theft lawyer to represent you free of charge. The fees and costs associated with your case are paid by the defendants if you prevail. You may also obtain reimbursement for any damages you suffer, including compensation for loan denials and loss of credit limits.
On May 7, Equifax’s executives submitted a statement to the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) describing the extent of the consumer data breach that occurred in September of 2017. Equifax described that millions of pieces of personal data were compromised, including social security numbers, names, dates of birth, and driver’s licenses. The report also details over 180,000 consumer credit report disputes related to identity theft and inaccuracies in consumer credit reports.
According to the report, the stolen information came from a collection of databases linked to Equifax’s payment systems and web applications. The sensitive personal information compromised from these databases exposes consumers to identity theft, “spear fishing” (fake emails used to access consumer’s personal data on their computer), and telephone scams.
To protect yourself from the negative effects of the Equifax data breach, make sure to pull your most recent credit reports from www.annualcreditreport.com and review the reports carefully for any inaccuracies or fraudulent credit information. If any of these banks and credit bureaus fail to update the inaccurate information, you should hire a Las Vegas identity theft lawyer to represent you. It is also important to initiate fraud alerts on your reports and to notify the appropriate governmental entities.
Lawsuits related to identity theft and inaccuracies in a credit report can be brought free of charge because federal law requires the banks and credit bureaus to cover your attorney’s fees and costs as part of your case. You may also receive compensation for actual damages (loan denials, etc.) and statutory damages of up to $1,000.
The Eighth Circuit recently found that consumers must prove a debt collector’s false statement was material to violate the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”). In applying this standard, the Eighth Circuit joined five other federal circuit courts, including the Ninth Circuit, which encompasses Nevada and California, among other states.
The case involved a lawsuit against the consumer for an unpaid medical debt that the collector purchased from the medical provider. In the underlying case, the consumer challenged the documents supporting the lawsuit, and the court ruled in the consumer’s favor. The consumer then sued the medical collector for violating the FDCPA by making false statements and threatening to take action that cannot be legally taken. The Eighth Circuit found that a debt collector’s loss of a collection action, in and of itself, does not establish a violation of federal debt collection laws.
This case illustrates the importance of hiring an experienced Las Vegas debt collection attorney to review and analyze your case. It also demonstrates that claims against debt collectors must be vetted to ensure they comply with federal law and precedent to avoid dismissal as occurred in this matter.
Source: Hill v. Accounts Receivable Services, LLC, No. 16-4356 (8th Cir. 2018)
In recently filed disclosures, Equifax indicated it has spent $163.1 million related to the 2017 data breach that exposed personal data of U.S. consumers leading to an increased risk of identity theft, including those living here in Las Vegas and Henderson. This figure includes legal and remediation costs, along with over $50 million to offer free credit monitoring and identity theft services to U.S. consumers.
Equifax further disclosed that it expects to incur significant costs in the future, including legal expenses, investments in IT, and regulatory costs. The costs to Equifax concerning the data breach and related identity theft issues will likely exceed those incurred during other data breaches in the past.
The Ninth Circuit recently found that a data breach lawsuit against the online retailer Zappos.com may proceed. The panel found that although the plaintiffs' personal information was not actually misused by identity thieves, the plaintiffs have standing to sue because the loss of their personal information to identity thieves creates a substantial risk of identity theft.
This case highlights the ongoing risks that Las Vegas consumers face when providing their personal information online. Hackers and identity thieves may use this information to open new accounts on your credit reports, use existing banking and credit accounts, apply for loans, or hack into your computer.
While the plaintiffs in this appeal have not yet experienced these negative outcomes, it is a positive step that the Ninth Circuit protected their rights related to the substantial risk of future identity theft so that consumers need not wait for identity theft to strike before filing claims.