• Consumer Protection Law and Advocacy — Chicago, IL

Consumer Privacy

Secure Credit Issues - Bardo Law PC

Identity Theft and Data Security

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Identity theft and data security top the consumer concern list. From data breaches to credit and debit card compromises, more and more consumers are impacted. Unfortunately, it’s no longer a question of if your data will be stolen but when.

A new crop of businesses now promise consumer protection. Some offer “dark web” checks. The dark web can’t be accessed by commonly used web browsers — you need a special browser to get there. The dark web isn’t all bad but it’s the place to buy and sell stolen personal information, often with Bitcoins or cryptocurrency. Businesses offering dark web monitoring may let you know your information is for sale. But they can’t remove the information once posted. When you are not dealing with legitimate agencies, they don’t cooperate with fraud victims.

Be aware of dark web monitoring limitations. Don’t pay for promises that can’t be kept. But dark web monitoring can let you know if your information is posted. This way, you can take your own action to limit your information’s use. Do this through credit freezes or two-step verification for online purchases.

The Consumer Federation of America’s survey shows that 36% of consumers don’t understand dark web monitoring services. Check out the survey results and other helpful tips at https://consumerfed.org/consumers-are-in-the-dark-about-dark-web-monitoring-services/.

There are plenty of no cost resources for identity theft victims. Visit the Federal Trade Commission’s www.identitytheft.gov, and the nonprofit Identity Theft Resource Center, www.idtheftcenter.org.

If your information has been compromised and you’re contacted by unfamiliar creditors or debt collectors, contact a lawyer for help. The federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and Fair Credit Reporting Act and state fraud laws provide redress for identity theft victims.

Robocalls Continue To Harass Consumers

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Robocalls continue at record rates. Between January and August of this year alone, the Federal Trade Commission received over 3.5 million consumer complaints about these disruptive (and often, deceptive) calls.  This is more than the 3.4 million complaints registered for all of 2016.

Robocalls impact everyone, even those registered for the Do Not Call list. In June, a federal judge approved a $280 million dollar penalty against Dish Network for its calling practices but this hasn’t stopped industry from doubling down:

Illegal robocalls are more than just a frustrating invasion of consumers’ privacy, according to the testimony, as callers frequently use fraud and deception to pitch their goods and services, leading to significant economic harm. Such robocalls also are often used by criminal imposters posing as trusted officials or companies.


Worse, many consumers report that the calls they receive look to be from a local number. They answer the call, thinking it must be a family member or friend. But instead, the call is from a scammer or marketer, using a practice called “spoofing.” Even following the recent hurricanes, fraudsters have used using caller ID spoofing and robocall technology to target residents of areas hit by the storms with scam calls about flood insurance.

So what can you do? First, never give out personal information over the phone or agree to any payment until you have independently verified the call is legitimate, reviewed online information about the company calling or requested confirmation in writing be mailed to you BEFORE you agree to sign up for any service or payment.

Next, keep track of the numbers that call you. Take screenshots or write down the dates and times of each call. Keep your incoming call logs that may appear on your monthly phone bills because, if you eventually want to take legal action, you will need evidence of call frequency.

And finally, remember you have the right to opt-out of future calls. Tell the caller to remove you from the company list, respond to unsolicited text messages with a “STOP,” and limit the places to which you provide your phone number in the first place.

Fair Credit Reporting & Consumer Law - Bardo Law PC

Free Credit Reports?

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Free credit reports are available to consumers on an annual basis at https://www.annualcreditreport.com/index.action. Beware of sites other than www.annualcreditreport.com because those sites generally do not offer free credit reports.  Why does your report matter?  Because you need to check and verify that you recognize all the accounts and your information has not been, (1) confused with someone else or (2) stolen by an identity thief.  You also need to confirm your credit report is properly updated to reflect payments you make.

Checking your credit is a more timely concern than ever before.  Memorial Day weekend represents the start of our summer family travel season, and as you use credit and debit cards at gas stations, bars, restaurants, and shops outside of your local area, it’s especially  important to practice safe habits to make sure your credit is not compromised.

First, make sure to pull your credit report at least once per year and perform weekly checks of your online checking and savings accounts and credit card statements to confirm you recognize all transactions.

Second, carefully examine card machines at retail establishments.  As reported by the Consumerist this week, card skimmers continue to pose a threat – https://consumerist.com/2016/05/26/card-skimmers-found-on-walmart-self-checkout-terminals-in-two-states/.  According to the article:

“[T]he skimmers used in these instances are made to overlay the existing payment terminals so that they not only go undetected, but also collect both the information from the swiped card and any data entered on the PIN pad.  A skimmer of this quality will cost the wannabe ID thief at least $200, but that’s nothing compared to the amount of money that could be drained from victims’ accounts in a short period of time.”

And third, avoid leaving your credit or debit cards to hold a tab at bars and restaurants.  Pay with cash or make sure to close out your tab immediately to avoid your card being out of your possession for a longer than necessary period of time.

Keeping these tips in mind will help ensure a less stressful return to reality after your summer vacation!

Robocalls Continue Despite Consumer Protection Laws

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Back in June, the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) adopted a proposal that strengthens consumer protections against unwanted robocalls and text messages.  Read the press release at https://www.fcc.gov/document/fcc-strengthens-consumer-protections-against-unwanted-calls-and-texts.   As the FCC explains, the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (or “TCPA”) requires that a caller have express prior consent to make non-emergency autodialed, prerecorded or artificial voice calls to cell phones.  And just last week, the FCC cautioned political campaigns:

“With the 2016 campaign season underway, the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau reminds political campaigns and calling services that there are clear limits on the use of autodialed calls or texts (known as “robocalls”) and prerecorded voice calls. The FCC is committed to protecting consumers from harassing, intrusive, and unwanted robocalls and texts, including to cell phones and other mobile devices.”


But despite the TCPA and issued bulletins, advocates continue to receive numerous complaints from consumers receiving multiple “spam” calls and texts on their cell phones.  Here is how to tell if you may have a TCPA claim:

  • You receive a pre-recorded voicemail message or text message on your cell phone from a company you’ve never done business with
  • You answer a call on your cell phone and you hear “dead air” before someone speaks to you
  • You recently changed cell phone numbers and you’re receiving multiple calls for someone else
  • You are on the Do Not Call registry but keep receiving solicitations

Don’t hesitate to contact an attorney for assistance if you experience any of the above.  Not only can you try and make the calls and texts stop, but companies who violate the law may have to pay you between $500 and $1500 per violation.

Identity Theft Tips and Resources

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Identity theft continues to be one of the most frequent complaints made to the Illinois Attorney General.  Today, Attorney General Lisa Madigan announced that 2,636 identity theft complaints were received in 2015 alone. http://www.illinoisattorneygeneral.gov/pressroom/2016_03/20160307.html.  Beyond merely filing a complaint, consumers need to know how to deal with identity theft should their information be compromised.

Tip No. 1: Visit https://www.identitytheft.gov/.  In January, the FTC announced a “one-stop website” where consumers can log in and obtain a personalized plan of action.

Tip No. 2: Put a fraud alert on your credit bureau report and file a police report.  Keep copies of everything.  Down the road, if you end up receiving collection letters or a debt collection lawsuit on a fraudulent account, having this information handy may provide an immediate collection defense.

Tip No. 3: Don’t ignore data breach notices.  If you receive a letter indicating your information may have been compromised, check all credit card and bank accounts and pull a copy of your credit report at https://www.annualcreditreport.com/index.action.  Make sure you recognize all charges and accounts and update your calendar to remind you to check these accounts every month for at least one year after you receive a data breach notice. Contact a lawyer to see if legal action may be pending as a result of the data breach.

Tip No. 4: Don’t rely on the telephone to lodge a dispute.  If you end up seeing fraudulent activity on one of your accounts, confirm your disputes in writing.  Send them by fax or certified mail so you have confirmation your written dispute was received.

Tip No. 5: Don’t throw anything away.  Keep all letters, reports, and proofs that your disputes were processed and resolved. You may need them should the fraudulent information re-appear.

Most of all, try not to panic.  If you follow the steps above or contact a trusted legal advisor for help, you can hopefully reverse any damage and protect your information for the future.