How to Secure Your Credit Reports After Identity Theft under Federal Law

If you are the victim of identity theft or fraud, you have the right to place a fraud alert on your consumer files with the 3 national consumer credit reporting agencies, Equifax, TransUnion and Experian. This makes it harder for anyone to use your consumer information through the agencies to open new credit accounts. You can place the fraud alert on your consumer files by contacting one of the three agencies and reporting the fraud and requesting the fraud alert. More information on this process is at https://www.annualcreditreport.com/cra/helpfaq#fraudalert. You are also entitled to a free copy of your consumer file, known as a “consumer disclosure,” after you are the victim of fraud. You can request this at the time you place the fraud alert.

The contact information for placing a fraud alert is:

  • Equifax: 1-877-576-5734; www.alerts.equifax.com
  • Experian: 1-888-397-3742; www.experian.com/fraud
  • TransUnion: 1-800-680-7289; www.transunion.com

If you are a resident of Wisconsin, you may also have the right to place a Security Freeze on your files. See our Blog entry on How to Secure Your Credit Reports After Identity Theft under Wisconsin Law for more information.

When Someone Else Uses Your Social Security Number for a Job

When someone else is using your social security number for employment purposes, it presents a difficult situation to resolve. While the answer to how to stop this from continuing is not clear, there are some things you can do.

You can contact the Social Security Administration and the Internal Revenue Service to notify them of the fraud, as you want to avoid tax liability on this imposter’s wages. Also, the imposter could potentially open credit using your SSN, which would cause you additional problems. So you can contact the consumer reporting agencies to report fraud and ask them to put a fraud alert on your consumer file. Every employer is also required to verify the identity of an employee using a form I-9, which is governed by the Dept. of Homeland Security, formerly the INS, so you could notify the Dept. of Homeland Security. Also, the Federal Trade Commission accepts complaints of identity theft, as they keep a database and cross-reference complaints for potential action. You can attempt to file a police report of the fraud, but the local police department may not accept the report, as many are reluctant to do so if there doesn’t appear to be an economic loss associated with the matter.

Providing the identity of the employers where the fraudster worked and to these agencies may help get some interest going on to investigate to help you find out the identity of the person using the SSN.

The FTC has a very good guide on what to do when your identity has been stolen. Anyone that is victimized by identity theft should review that site and follow its recommendations.

For more information on what you can do, visit our website page on Identity Theft at http://www.celcwi.com/page33.html.

Easy Money—Rarely Is

The FTC just won a court judgment against three get-rich-quick schemes that promised big dollars in real estate in return for minimal investments. These schemes typically target financially stressed consumers. Here is the story: http://www.nclc.org/conferences-training/consumer-rights-litigation-conference.html

The promises were the same ones you hear over and over, little to no money down and lots of money in return. The problem, less than one percent of the consumers that buy into the product ever see a return on the investment like the expectations the scheme creates. Oftentimes, these schemes bring you in for a small investment into their system and then give a hard sell to suck you into buying on their add-on products and “personal coaching” that really costs you.

The action by the FTC was against the marketers behind the infomercials for “John Beck’s Free & Clear Real Estate System,” “John Alexander’s Real Estate Riches in 14 Days,” and “Jeff Paul’s Shortcuts to Internet Millions.”

Misrepresentations in the Employment Relationship—By the Employer

Did you know that Wisconsin law prohibits an employer and anyone acting on its behalf from making misrepresentations to an employee or prospective employee with the intent or for the purpose of inducing the public to enter into any contract or other obligation relating to the terms of employment?
Seldom used for this purpose, but Wisconsin Statutes 100.18, part of Wisconsin’s Marketing and Trade Practices protections, prohibits such misrepresentations in many consumer transactions and the employment context. If someone suffers pecuniary loss–generally a financial loss—he or she can a claim that can be enforced in the civil courts of Wisconsin for that loss plus the costs of the action and a reasonable attorney’s fee. If there was a prior injunction in place as to the offending conduct, then the injured consumer may recover twice his or her pecuniary loss.
Wisconsin Statues 103.43 has similar prohibitions specific to misrepresentations made to induce someone to leave one job for another, but typically applies in manual labor settings.
This law, if applied in the employment context, could cover false statements of wages, salary and other employment compensation or benefits. It could also cover situations where the employer promises a position without ever intending to actually hire the consumer. These inquiries, and whether the law would provide any remedy, are very fact specific to each circumstance.

Identity Theft in Auto Loans is Down

Good news. The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, part of the U.S. Department of Treasury, reports after a recent study that conscientious automobile dealer staff and finance companies are helping to reduce fraudulent vehicle loans obtained through identity theft. Although suspected cases of identity theft are on the rise since 2004, fraudulent auto loans due to identity theft appear to be declining significantly. The SCE and attributes the significant decline to the new Red Flag Rules of the Fair Credit Reporting Act to deal with identity theft. The study notes that credit card fraud continues to be the biggest problem in terms of identity theft crimes. The full report is available at www.fincen.gov/news_room/nr/html/20101015.html, and it is titled "Identity Theft-Trends, Patterns, and Typologies Reported in Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs) Filed by Depository Institutions."

When a Car Dealer Doesn’t Give you Clear Title to Your Car

If a car dealer sells you a car but does not give you clear title because of a prior unsatisfied lien or perhaps because the car was a prior stolen vehicle with duplicate VIN (vehicle identification) numbers, you may have a claim for fraud or a breach of warranty. A warrant of title from a dealer cannot be disclaimed with an “as is” type of purchase agreement. The Uniform Commercial Code section 2-312 addresses this issue, as does the Magnuson-Moss act at Chapter 50, Title 15 of the U.S. Code (15 USC 2301, et seq.).

How To Tell If A Car Was Previously Wrecked

I’m an attorney, not an auto repair shop, so I don’t have specific answers to this issue. I did find a couple of books, though, that talk about signs of a wreck. They are written by Danny Wyatt, who ran a body shop in North Carolina for years. He wrote 2 books on the subject: “Collusion Collision” and “Signs of a Wreck.” You can see more about them at http://csiofnc.com/collisioncollusion-signsofawreck.html. If you are buying a new or used car, it may be worth the look to prevent being tricked by a car salesperson or car dealer that has taken a wreck or salvaged car and fixed it up to look brand new. A few ounces of car fraud prevention may be worth a many more pounds of cure.

When A New Car is Really Used

If you buy a new car that has 900 or so miles on it, there is a good chance that this car is not new. If the car dealer previously sold this car—that is that another buyer signed a purchase agreement and drove it off the lot—and then the prior buyer gives the car back for any reason, the dealer should then sell this car as a used car. The price differential should be significant. Chances are too that the prior buyer noticed problems with the car, and that may be the reason for the prior buyer returning it. Tell tale signs of a used “new car” tend to be high mileage and problems very early on. Before you consider buying a “new car” with high mileage on it, get representations from the car dealer, preferably in writing, about why the mileage is so high, whether it was ever sold before and strongly consider whether you really want that car for the “new car price.” Generally, a dealer that sells a used car as new is in violation of your consumer rights.