Can I Sue the Person Who Stole my Identity?

Stories of identity theft are on the rise in this country, which comes as a surprise to those who have become rather comfortable with trusting various forms of technology in every facet of their lives. Indeed, our techno-centric lives have contributed to the creation of tech savvy criminals who can hack virtually any computer system or device.

Although it seemed like identity theft and account hacking were less prevalent for a few years, accounts of stolen personal identifying information are now on the rise again. Hackers have learned their way around firewalls, safety features and encryption settings designed to prevent this very crime.

It seems like nearly every day that we hear about a friend’s Facebook, email or other online communication/social media account being hacked. While those used to be more of a nuisance than a danger – we can now shop right from our Facebook and other social media profiles. This means a hacker can shop as you if they are able to gain access to your account(s).

Additionally, there have been far too many reports of corporations experiencing data breaches – nearly everyone has received at least one notification letter in the mail detailing what information of theirs was potentially stolen during their recent cyber attack. Even giants like Target and Equifax have been victims of cyber crime.

What would you do if you discovered that your personal information – that being your name, birth date, social security number, home address, and other identifiers was stolen during one of these data breaches and used by another person in order to create accounts in your name? The potential for damage to your credit score is huge. What recourse do you have?

While it can be a primal instinct to want to sue the pants off the person who stole your information, that isn’t always easy to do. However, if you are able to pinpoint the criminal in question (or the corporation who allowed your personal data to be leaked) – it is possible to sue for up to three times the damages you experienced.

As soon as you realize that another person has been using your personal information to make purchases or perform other actions while posing as you – make a police report at your local police station. The sooner your identity theft matter is on record, the better. It’s important not to simply ignore it and hope it goes away, because you definitely want to avoid hitting the statute of limitations on a crime like this. Reports show that the average identity theft victim spends an average of two years trying to prove their own identity, getting charges removed from credit cards and fixing credit reports that now contain false information.

For more information about New Jersey identity theft and the statute of limitations on such crimes in our state, read about the Wrongful Impersonation statute (N.J.S.A. 2C:21-17) and contact a certified and experienced NJ credit repair attorney to help you right the wrongs that have been done.

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How to Dispute a Debt and Win!

We’ve talked a lot on our blog about how to handle your unpaid debts so that your credit score doesn’t tank, because a low credit score makes it much harder for you to borrow money, buy a house, and purchase a vehicle. Even potential employers today have the ability to find out how you handle money before deciding whether or not to hire you. For the aforementioned reasons, keeping a decent credit score is something that rightfully demands your attention.

Keeping tabs on your ever-shifting credit score and the details contained within your credit report(s) is the easiest way to ensure that you don’t have any long-lost debts doing serious damage without your knowledge. If and when you discover an unpaid debt that belongs to you, it’s important to pay the debt ASAP to avoid losing valuable credit score points. Working with your credit repair attorney in NJ, you can negotiate a debt pay-off schedule that works for you. Remember to check back in with the credit reporting bureaus as soon as you’ve paid off said debt to make sure it has been removed from your credit report.

What happens if you receive a notice from a collection agency for a debt that you have no recollection of owing? While your first instinct may be to toss it in the trash with the rest of the “junk mail,” slow down for a minute. There are two very good reasons why you should NOT ignore any letter from a debt collector.

  1. Everyone makes mistakes. It’s possible that you do owe an original creditor money. Bills are be misplaced, mis-sent, and lost every day. The original creditor may have also made a billing error when they originally charged you. The bottom line is that it is possible that you owe money that you forgot about or didn’t know about.
  2. Debt collectors can continue to attempt to collect on a debt, even if it was never your debt to begin with, unless you respond to them, in writing, within 30 days. Therefore, even if a collection agency is completely falsifying information in the hopes that you will simply send them some money, do not ignore it.

If you are being held responsible for a debt that you don’t recognize or remember, you can dispute the debt by sending the collection agent a letter via Certified Mail, with return receipt requested. In your letter, state that you are writing to dispute the alleged debt, and that all collection attempts should cease unless they can provide you with all of the following:

  • The full amount of the alleged debt
  • The name and address of the original creditor
  • Proof that you are responsible for the alleged debt
  • Documentation showing that the collection agency is licensed to collect debts in New Jersey

If the person attempting to collect money is doing so fraudulently, you should never hear from them again once they receive this letter from you. On the other hand, if there is a legitimate debt that you’re responsible for, you will receive the information you requested. Either way it is advisable to contact a credit repair attorney and/or a consumer fraud attorney in order to get your desired results and to keep your good credit score safe.

Image: “Credit Dispute” by Cafe Credit – licensed under CC 2.0

Are You Committing Financial Child Abuse?

Although it may be something you’ve never considered, there have been many reports of what is now being called “financial child abuse.” One of the easiest ways to commit financial child abuse is to use your child’s Social Security number instead of your own.

Why would anyone use their child’s Social Security number?

Typically, the perpetrator has found himself with a significant amount of debt that may include wage garnishment. What this means is that any time the adult in question attempts to get a job, his debts follow him and his creditors will be able to take a portion of his paycheck.

Because of this, the adult decides to use his child’s Social Security number when applying for a new job. Oftentimes, the father and the child in question have the same name, making this kind of activity slightly more difficult to detect by law enforcement.

Is it a crime to use your child’s Social Security number?

Not only is it illegal, but to do so would be committing a number of serious crimes including:

  • Identity theft
  • Fraud
  • Tax fraud
  • Social Security fraud
  • Theft

These crimes will almost certainly prevent the adult in question from ever discharging any of his debts in a bankruptcy in the future, and in addition, he may face prison time and thousands of dollars in fines.

Why is it a crime? Who is it really hurting?

The reason it is a crime to use a child’s Social Security number to obtain employment or a loan, etc. is because regardless of whose Social Security number is being “borrowed,” it is illegal to do so. End of story. A Social Security number is not something that can be borrowed, shared, or changed.

It can affect the child in question by tacking on Social Security wages to his SSN that he may have to answer for later in life if the activity is not stopped and reversed. This can cause the child serious legal problems involving Social Security fraud, even though he had no knowledge of the crime being carried out.

What is a better solution to my debt-related problems?

It is always a good idea to avoid committing a crime in order to get out of paying your debts. The reasons? You’re going to end up getting in serious trouble, you may go to jail, you will owe more money in the end, you will cause conflict within your family, and most importantly: There is a better solution!

You can erase the debts that you have. You do not have to borrow someone else’s Social Security number to get around your creditors. It is understandable and admirable that you want to get a job to support your family. Just don’t resort to committing a crime that you will regret later in order to do so.

Filing for NJ bankruptcy will wipe out most or all of the debts that you have racked up (with some exclusions) – allowing you to have a relatively clean credit report and no debts that will be taken from your wages.

Will a bankruptcy appear on my credit report?

It is impossible to avoid a bankruptcy showing up on your credit history, however, taking the responsibility for your debts and doing the right thing is viewed much more favorably by employers and lenders. You will have a much easier time getting a job with a bankruptcy on your record than if you had been convicted of fraud and identity theft.

The bankruptcy will disappear off of your credit report within seven to ten years depending on which chapter you file. Committing a crime like identity theft or Social Security fraud will remain on your criminal history record for the rest of your life. Which sounds more desirable to you? Do the right thing – file for bankruptcy and get rid of your debts so that you can move forward with getting that job and supporting your family the right way.

USPS Mail Identity Theft: What You Need to Know

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As our world becomes more and more saturated with technology, it’s now possible to do almost anything online. You can check your bank account balance, transfer money and pay your bills. Heck, you can even run a business online these days.

Even as we move deeper and deeper into the Information Age, there are still a number of people (and companies) who send and receive important information the “old fashioned way” – via the US Postal Service. Most of us still check the mailbox regularly, and it’s fair to say that the majority of Americans receive at least several pieces of “snail mail” every day.

What, then, should you make of your mailbox being empty for several days in a row? While not receiving any mail isn’t really that unusual once in awhile – if the trend continues beyond a single consecutive day, you should look into the reason.

As it turns out, there is a new identity theft scam making its way around the country that combines the use of both technology and old fashioned “snail mail” to take advantage of unsuspecting victims. The first clue that you may have been a victim is simply an empty mailbox.

While you may celebrate when there’s no mail (after all, no mail means no bills, right?) – the real reason may be quite sinister, and one that requires immediate attention. Ignoring your lack of mail may lead to a ruined credit report and a plunging credit score.

Here’s how this particular identity theft scheme works:

  • The identity thief typically applies for a credit card in your name, using your personal information, including your mailing address.
  • The thief then uses the USPS website to place a hold on your mail. The thief pretends to be you, but no authorization is ever required.
  • You stop receiving mail, as your identity thief plans to act as you and retrieve your mail from the post office when the credit card arrives. Again, no identification is required for them to pick up your mail from the USPS.
  • If the thief is successful, they will have a credit card in your name. The mail hold will be removed so that you will begin receiving mail at home again, and (they hope) you will be none the wiser.

This identity theft scheme has been just recently brought to light, and the lack of security surrounding the USPS electronic hold system is being investigated, according to representatives from the postal service.

In this technology-driven world, we all have to prove our identity online multiple times a day – even signing into Twitter can be difficult if you use a different computer or device. Accessing our most valuable personal information, (bank accounts, PayPal accounts and credit card statements) requires that we prove our identity through the use of complex passwords and security questions. Hopefully, the US Postal Service will soon have similar security measures in place in order to prevent just anyone from picking up “their” new credit card, all the while pretending to be you.

Until then, we want you to be aware of this problem so that your identity is not used by someone else. If this has happened to you (or you suspect that it has), acting quickly is of the utmost importance. Report the fraudulent activity, file a police report, and get in touch with a New Jersey credit repair attorney immediately.

Image credit: Matt

How to Avoid a Foreclosure Defense Scam

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All too often, homeowners who are in danger of losing their home to foreclosure are under the impression that they can’t afford to pay for the assistance of an experienced foreclosure attorney.

This leads people to seek out alternatives to saving their home. You may have seen advertisements for services that make ‘too good to be true’ claims; they can often be found in local newspapers, on bulletin boards or on random signs near your home (often on telephone poles or staked into the ground.)

These “services” are very often scam artists disguised as a foreclosure defense or loan modification company. Typically, they’ll entice you by claiming to charge only a one-time flat fee amount that is less expensive than retaining a foreclosure defense attorney.

For that one-time flat fee, the scammer company will make lofty promises in relation to your specific money problems. If you’re about to lose your home to foreclosure, promises will be made to “save your home,” “stop the foreclosure,” “negotiate a loan modification,” etc.

While all of these false promises are being tossed around, the fraudulent foreclosure defense company may begin asking for more money in order to continue negotiations that have taken “longer than expected” or to initiate an automatic stay. Because of the addition of more and more fees, you will almost always end up paying a scammer a lot more money than a certified foreclosure defense lawyer!

Will a fraudulent foreclosure defense company actually help me save my home?

So, you’re thinking, “Ok; I may have gotten taken for more money than the deal I thought I was getting, but at least my house will not be sold at Sheriff’s Sale.” You may be kicking yourself for spending more than you had to, but as long as your foreclosure is stopped, you’ll probably feel somewhat relieved.

The problem with that line of thinking is that these foreclosure defense scammers don’t actually plan on doing any work on your case at all. Their solitary goal is to take your money. In some cases, they may use some of your money to pay a third party to negotiate a loan modification for you (which will do nothing in terms of stopping a foreclosure), while they keep the rest of your money as profit.

Throughout the vast majority of this process, the scammers will lead you to believe that they are constantly working on your case – filing paperwork and negotiating with your lender as your foreclosure defense team. In reality, almost nothing is actually being done to further your case along at all.

Some foreclosure defense scam artists may even make bold claims that suggest they are working with or for the government or your mortgage company in order to increase your comfort level. Multiple promises will be made to you about what they can deliver in terms of saving your home. If your home is already in foreclosure, it’s important to know that a loan modification will not stop or even delay the foreclosure process in the slightest.

If you are facing foreclosure and wish to save your home, you need a New Jersey foreclosure defense attorney working for you. Although an attorney’s fees may seem higher up front, the alternative is to pay smaller amounts out over a long stretch of time to a scam artist. In the end, your certified and experienced attorney may even come out costing LESS, and you will have gotten the results you wanted.

Veitengruber Law has saved many homes for New Jersey residents who are struggling, and we will continue to save more homes for those who need help. Paying our fees is beyond worth it, because we do not stop working until your home is saved, and we don’t make any promises we can’t keep.

Image credit: Ingrid Richter