Date: October 16, 2020Author: Joshua Denbeaux
If you have someone else using your credit to make purchases, you have been the victim of identity theft. This is a problem plaguing many people, but with few attorneys who can actually help.
Bankruptcy is not the solution, despite what the general advice is on the subject throughout much of the legal community. The reason (or one of many):
There are federal laws that govern the credit industry, and the main statute is the Fair Credit Reporting Act. We fix identity theft and general credit reporting mistakes because we sue credit reporting agencies and furnishers of credit who allow fraudulent credit to be applied to our clients’ credit report.
Usually people find us in a panic when they are trying to purchase a car, or qualify for a mortgage: “Attorney Denbeaux, I contacted you because my real estate attorney told me I had to fix my credit and he did not know how to do it. Someone bought a car, in my name, and then defaulted and my credit shows a repossession and a $9,000 debt for something that I did not buy! Can you help? If I do not get this fixed, I cannot buy this house!”
Identity theft can cost someone thousands of dollars and untold amount of lost opportunity.
The credit industry has three players:
You already know what the consumer is (and if you are reading this nodding your head as you think of your own situation, you know why I use the word victim).
You probably also already know what a Credit Reporting Agency is, even if you have never before heard the term. There are dozens of Credit Reporting Agencies, but the big three are TransUnion, Equifax and Experian. They are the companies that report your credit.
The Credit Furnisher is the company that reports the credit information to the Credit Reporting Agencies. If you have a mortgage with Wells Fargo, then WF is the Credit Furnisher on your home loan. (And my condolences that you have to deal with that particular entity.)
So Congress enacted the Fair Credit Reporting Act to regulate the credit reporting industry. The FCRA (Fair Credit Reporting Act) provides what is known as a ‘private right of action’ for injured consumers to sue for credit injury caused by errors in their credit reports.
However, a consumer may not simply sue the Credit Reporting Agency or the Credit Furnisher even if their credit was damaged improperly and the consumer was harmed.
The only way to sue for credit injury is to put the Reporting Agency and the Furnisher on formal notice that there is a credit problem and provide instructions on how it should be fixed. This is known as the FCRA Letter.
This step is where many people trying to represent themselves make a mistake. The entire lawsuit depends on the FCRA Letter. If that letter does not include everything that the FCRA statute requires, then the consumer/victim might have been absolutely destroyed by the credit injury but he will lose the following litigation because the FCRA notice was not proper.
Consumers/victims often try to resolve this by calling the Credit Reporting Agency and making the dispute over the phone.
The only way to properly set the situation where you can hold the Credit Reporting Agency and the Credit Furnisher feet to the fire is by following the strict requirements of the FCRA to the letter.
Talk to a competent and experienced consumer rights attorney who holds Credit Furnishers and Credit Reporting Agencies accountable.
You have to talk to the right attorney and give the attorney all the information needed to evaluate your situation.
In general, this includes at least:
We review everything and get back to you within 24 hours with our thoughts. This is part of the free consultation … and then you can schedule a video conference with me for a face to face meeting, Covid-style.
Generally, nothing out of pocket from you.
In this video, I explain in depth why I am a consumer rights attorney and why most of the cases I take are on a contingency. The basic point is I am absolutely committed to making access to the legal system egalitarian again. If you have been harmed, we want to make it right.
The FCRA provides for what is known as ‘fee shifting’, which means that when we win the lawsuit the defendants have to pay our attorneys’ fees. We also usually cover all the expenses in the litigation.
We also collect a portion of your damages, so we are well compensated by the credit reporting industry for our efforts.
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