In this country today, hundreds of businesses and individuals have your personal information – like your name, date of birth and social security number. There’s also a good chance that at least one of them has lost some or all of your data to hackers. That means an increased risk of identity theft for everyone. Lately we’ve seen several cases of people who were sued over credit card accounts they never opened.
If you’re being sued for a debt that is in your name, but for an account you never opened, you may be a victim of identity theft. Here are 4 steps you can take in order to protect your rights:
1. File a Defense.
If you are being sued on an account opened in your name you must defend yourself. If you do nothing, the debt won’t go away. Without a defense, the court will decide the case without hearing your side of the story and may likely decide that you owe the money. So file a defense as soon as possible. If you don’t know how to file a defense, seek help from the District Court Self-Help Center or from an organization like Maryland Volunteer Lawyer Services or Legal Aid.
As soon as possible you should consult an attorney. If you’re a victim of identity theft, an attorney can review your papers and let you know if they can help defend you. To make the most of a consultation with an attorney, make sure you show the attorney all the court papers and letters and emails you’ve got.
If you’re going to defend yourself, you must show up for all court dates. Keep an eye on Maryland Judiciary Case Search to make sure you know when and where you have to go to court. If possible make sure you have documents to prove that the account doesn’t belong to you. For example, many identity thieves use a false address for fake accounts they open. That’s so that you don’t get statements or letters about the account in the mail. You could prove that you didn’t live at the address when the account was opened, using a copy of a lease or utility bill, showing you lived somewhere else at the time.
3. File a Police Report
Many creditors want victims of identity theft to file a police report. Filing a report may help catch the identity thief, but it will also help you convince others that you are victim of identity theft, rather than a debtor. It’s helpful to establish that you are victim of identity theft as early as possible. Make sure that you get a copy of any report you file.
You can also file a report with the Federal Trade Commission.
4. Check your credit reports.
Go to annualcreditreport.com and obtain your credit reports from the three largest Consumer Reporting Agencies (CRAs). Make sure you save a copy of those reports to look at later. Go through each report careful and note anything at all that is inaccurate, especially:
- False addresses
- False names
- False telephone numbers
- Accounts that you don’t recognize
You have a right to challenge inaccurate information on your credit reports. Doing so might improve your credit score, but it will also make identity theft harder in the future by making sure the CRAs have accurate contact information for you.
5. Learn About Recovering from Identity Theft
There are many more steps you can and should take to recover from Identity Theft and avoid future identity theft. Here are some more resources:
CONTACT US: If you have been the victim of identity theft, feel free to contact us for a consultation.