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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.

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.