Identity theft is unfortunately becoming an increasingly common experience. Identity theft occurs when one person uses another person’s personal or financial information without their permission. Examples of the type of information that can be stolen to commit identity theft include names and addresses, social security numbers, credit card numbers, bank account numbers, and medical insurance account numbers. When a scammer gets a hold of a victim’s identity, they can wreak havoc on the victim’s finances without the victim even knowing- until they discover it weeks or even months later. There are steps an identity theft victim can take to remove these types of fraudulent charges from their credit report, but they aren’t always foolproof. If you have experienced identity theft and are considering bankruptcy, you can learn more about your options from an experienced professional at no cost to you. To schedule your free consultation with our Mesa and Tempe Bankruptcy Lawyers, call 480-405-1010.

Bankruptcy lawyer discussing documents with a client at a desk, with the Chandler Bankruptcy Lawyers logo visible

How to Tell If You’ve Been the Victim of Identity Theft

Because of the electronic nature of identity theft, it could be several months or even longer before someone realizes they have been victimized. The earlier identity theft is detected, the easier it will be to address the issue. Therefore, experts recommend that you regularly monitor your credit for fraudulent charges and accounts that you don’t remember opening. Below are some of the signs that you may have been the victim of identity theft. 

  • Receiving bills for purchases that you don’t remember making;
  • Receiving calls from debt collectors for charges that you don’t recognize;
  • Your loan applications and other financial applications are unexpectedly being denied;
  • Missing letters or your mail entirely stops coming to your mailbox; and
  • Finding items on your credit history that you don’t recall;

What to Do After Experiencing Identity Theft

If you suspect that you have been the victim of identity theft, it can be helpful to review your credit report, if you haven’t already. If an identity thief has used your information for one fraudulent charge, chances are high that they used it for other charges or another identity thief was able to access your information. After discovering identity theft in your credit history, it should be reported to the Federal Trade Commission, or FTC. Next, you should contact the three major credit reporting agencies, Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. This is to inform them that certain charges on your credit are fraudulent, and to request fraud alerts and a credit freeze. Fraud alerts create additional steps that must be completed before a creditor can open a new account in your name, issue an additional card, or raise your credit limit. Before any of these can occur, the credit reporting agency will need to verify your identity through a method of your choosing. A credit freeze stops your creditors from accessing your credit altogether. Credit freezing and unfreezing are required by federal law to be provided for free by the three major credit reporting agencies. However, you must separately notify each of the three agencies if you want a credit freeze in effect. 

The next parties to notify after discovering identity theft are the fraud departments at any of the institutions where the fraudulent charges were made. After being notified of an identity theft incident, these institutions are not allowed to sell these accounts to debt collectors. You can also alert your bank and any other institutions at which your information was compromised. You should also report the identity theft to the police. The financial institutions at which the fraudulent charges were made may require a police report as part of the process of clearing those accounts from your name. It doesn’t necessarily require that the perpetrator be found, but you may be required to press charges on the identity thief if you want the fraudulent charges cleared. 

After experiencing identity theft, you may feel safer implementing security measures for your credit going forward. You can place an extended alert on your credit if you have already been the victim of identity theft. This type of credit alert lasts for 7 years. It requires an extra identity verification by any credit unions seeking to open a new account in your name. It also removes you from the nationwide credit companies’ pre-screen marketing lists for credit offers and insurance for 5 years. If you are in the military, you might consider an active duty credit alert. This type of credit alert allows you to designate a personal representative that creditors must contact for verification before opening up new lines of credit with your information. This type of alert can last up to 12 months and will have to be renewed if the deployment lasts longer than 12 months. 

Moving forward, you should be sure to shred or destroy any documents you discard that contain your personal information. Be careful when you have to give out your Social Security number- many businesses will accept the last 4 digits or another form of identification when requesting your Social Security number to verify your identity. Create strong passwords when you use online profiles, and change them whenever you are notified of potential security breaches. If you have an online account with sensitive personal information, you should opt in for multi-factor authentication whenever possible. Lastly, continue monitoring your credit report regularly to ensure there are no fraudulent charges under your name. 

Filing Bankruptcy as the Identity Theft

When people think about identity theft, the first thing that comes to mind is someone charging expenses using a different person’s identity. But a less common form of identity theft is when the thief uses their victim’s identity to file for bankruptcy. This sometimes occurs when the identity thief wants to derive the benefits from the automatic stay without their own personal information being taken into account or the filing affecting their own credit history. For example, the identity thief may want to protect one of their assets with the automatic stay, and list it in a fraudulent bankruptcy petition. The case will end up dismissed when the debtor doesn’t appear for their 341 Meeting of Creditors

If someone steals your identity and uses it to file for bankruptcy, many of the primary steps you should take will be similar to standard identity theft cases. But it is also important for the identity theft victim to notify the bankruptcy trustee. The victim should include information about the identity theft and any documentation or evidence supporting these facts.

Experienced Bankruptcy Lawyers in Tempe & Mesa, Arizona

Filing for bankruptcy is a weighty decision that can have life-changing effects, especially when filed properly. If you have been the victim of identity theft, filing for bankruptcy could become necessary if other mitigation methods have failed. Our experienced professionals have helped countless clients in Tempe and Mesa with their choices regarding bankruptcy. If you are seeking high-quality representation with flexible post-filing payment options, look no further than Chapter Bankruptcy Lawyers. Filing for bankruptcy doesn’t have to be intimidating or out of your budget. See all that we have to offer with your free initial consultation. To schedule your free consultation with a knowledgeable member of our team today, contact us today or call 480-405-1010 now. 

Contact Chapter Bankruptcy Lawyers In Arizona

Email: [email protected]

Mesa Office
3707 E Southern Ave
Mesa, AZ 85206

Office: 480-405-1010

Tempe Office
4500 S Lakeshore Dr #300
Tempe, AZ 85282

Office: 480-562-6145