Identity theft is one of the fastest-growing crimes in the country. Some studies have shown that up to 10 million people a year could have their identity stolen. With massive data breaches reported by eBay (145 million users), Equifax (147.9 million users), LinkedIn (165 million users), and Yahoo (3 billion users) it is likely that your information is vulnerable.
There is good news though as California has one of the strongest laws in the nation to protect victims of identity theft. The California Identity Theft Act, Civ. Code §1798.92 is a consumer protection statute to help consumers deal with the effects of identity theft.
California’s civil statutory framework for victims of identity theft are contained in California’s Civil Code sections 1798.92 through 1798.97. You may sue a company for not providing a proper investigation after you have been a victim of identity theft. If your suit is successful, you may be entitled to $30,000.00 in statutory fees, actual damages, & attorneys’ fees.
The statute defines a victim of identity theft as follows: “(d) “Victim of identity theft” means a person who had his or her personal identifying information used without authorization by another to obtain credit, goods, services, money, or property, and did not use or possess the credit, goods, services, money, or property obtained by the identity theft, and filed a police report in this regard pursuant to Section 530.5 of the Penal Code.”
The California Penal Code Section 530.5 says that a person is guilty of identity theft who “willfully obtains personal identifying information, as defined in subdivision (b) of Section 530.55, of another person, and uses that information for any unlawful purpose, including to obtain, or attempt to obtain, credit, goods, services, real property, or medical information without the consent of that person.” Identity theft is a crime – however, there are additional consumer protections that the victim can actually pursue.
If you file a police report and send it into a creditor they are required to investigate. If not investigated, you can get $30,000 penalty, payment of your attorneys’ fees, the accounts removed from your credit report, and an order they stop collecting.
Nowadays nobody is safe from identity theft. Our Identity Theft Law Firm in Chula Vista & San Diego, CA has represented a former NFL player who had his identity stolen by his father who took out a number of loans and damaged his credit – we were able to get this resolved without litigation.
Our Chula Vista & San Diego, CA Identity Theft Lawyer have also represented a prominent real estate agent in Los Angeles. Other identity theft clients include doctors, teachers, and we even had a client who is nineteen years old and had his identity stolen when he was a minor. That’s really scary when you think about someone trying to get their credit established.
Most people don’t think it can happen to them – but it does. In fact, a large percentage of our clients are victimized by someone in their own family. Often this makes it difficult to clear up their name as creditors find these claims untrustworthy. We have even seen parents steal their kid’s identities and kids steal their parents’ identities.
Because of our location in San Diego, we get lots of members of the military. One man in the Navy while stationed in Japan had a cell phone account opened in his name in Tennessee. He did not even find out about the account until he tried to get some credit cards when he returned to America. He had never even been to Tennessee. He was denied the credit cards.
We had another client who had his bank account completely cleaned out after creditors got a judgment against him. The first he heard about the fraudulent account was when he noticed his bank account was empty. Our Chula Vista & San Diego, CA Identity Theft Attorney were able to get his money back, get the judgment against him canceled.
Another client of ours had her ex-husband take out a second mortgage on her home and forged her name to the deed of trust. We were able to get the deed of trust canceled for her. Our Chula Vista & San Diego, CA Identity Theft Lawyer even helped a young man who had his ID stolen when a mortgage was taken out in his name in Florida.
There are a number of ways the thieves can steal identities. We have seen it the old fashioned way when mail is stolen. One client had her toddler empty out her purse in the parking lot of a supermarket and the next thing she knew someone was running her credit card balances. The criminals also use more sophisticated means like the data breaches or hacking into emails and computers. There is also technology so people can clone your credit card which is called skimming.
The number one thing everyone can do is pull your credit report. You are entitled to one free credit report a year from each credit bureau from www.annualcreditreport.com. Once reviewing your credit report you can see which accounts have been opened in your name.
If you lost your personal information you may want to cancel lost or stolen credit cards. If you are the victim of identity theft file a police report. The law in California, specifically California Civil Code § 1798.93(c)(5), requires the victim of identity theft to provide the creditor with written notice at least 30 calendar days before filing any complaint seeking their actual damages, attorney fees, and any other equitable relief as the Court deems appropriate.
The written notice requires the creditors to investigate the claim of identity theft. If they fail to do so, and the victim can show clear and convincing evidence that they failed to do so after being properly notified, the victim is entitled to a civil penalty of up to $30,000.00 in addition to any other damages pursuant to California Civil Code § 1798.93(c)(6).
The same statute also authorizes the filing of a cross-complaint to establish that a person is a victim of identity theft in connection with the claim being asserted against them by any creditor, which shall be established by a preponderance of the evidence.
To obtain the $30,000 penalty here is what must be proven:
(A) That at least 30 days prior to filing an action or within the cross-complaint pursuant to this section, he or she provided written notice to the claimant at the address designated by the claimant for complaints related to credit reporting issues that a situation of identity theft might exist and explaining the basis for that belief.
(B) That the claimant failed to diligently investigate the victim’s notification of possible identity theft.
(C) That the claimant continued to pursue its claim against the victim after the claimant was presented with facts that were later held to entitle the victim to a judgment pursuant to this section.
You may bring a suit for identity theft within four years after reasonable discovery. California Code, Civil Code – CIV § 1798.96. There are certain rules and decisions that define “reasonable” discovery. While a reasonable time to discover an identity theft may buy you more time, it is important to address the situation in a timely fashion.
If you have been a victim of identity theft, please contact our Chula Vista & San Diego, CA Identity Theft Attorney or call us at 619-476-0030 for a free consultation. You may be entitled to a monetary award