Identity Theft Targeting Younger Victims

Identity theft is targeting younger victims and still a growing crime according to the Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book, recently released by the Federal Trade Commission. Not surprisingly, the age of the victims is dropping each year as younger consumers increasingly shop online without properly protecting their personal information. It seems the younger generation, though raised on personal computers, lacks the street smarts needed to match the identity thieves’ techniques.

Most surprising are the FTC’s recommended solutions for restoring your identity after a theft occurs. With two million victims every year – and growing – you would think the FTC would advise consumers to do more than merely report identity thefts and place initial fraud alerts. Yes, a fraud alert is an important step in the process but much more needs to be done. Reporting the crime to the FTC as they recommend is just an exercise in futility, doing nothing to actually help the victim restore their stolen identity.

Most important in reporting identity theft is the method by which the identity restoration is approached. There are several critical legal issues involved with reporting identity theft that if done improperly can have disastrous results for the consumer. For example, if consumers fail to include certain documentation or use the correct language in their communications with creditors and debt collectors they can be held liable for identity theft debt. The same problem arises when consumers try to remove identity theft debt from credit reports. Using the wrong language or taking the wrong approach in dispute or challenge letters will result in denials to investigate or delete the information. At a minimum the process of identity restoration will be delayed by failing to take the proper steps.

In addition to the financial ramifications, identity theft can also be emotionally devastating to the victims. Many victims of identity theft report symptoms of emotional distress similar to victims of violent crime. Restoring the consumer’s identity after a theft occurs simply adds to the stress these victims face.

The best advice to consumers is to report identity theft correctly and carefully. If consumers are unsure how to do so or if they are a victim of criminal identity theft they should contact an experienced consumer protection attorney who can walk them through the process.

How to Report Identity Theft

How to report identity theft.

It only takes a few simple steps to report identity theft and clear up your good name and end the devastating financial and emotional harm caused by identity theft.

Step One

Set an initial fraud alert with at least one of the three major credit bureaus. Only one is needed because the credit bureaus are required to alert each other when a fraud alert is placed. If you want to be sure fraud alerts are placed on all three then feel free to contact all three. It doesn’t take much time to take this first step to report identity theft and doing so will give you a little additional peace of mind.

Step Two

Obtain your free annual credit report and review it closely to identify which accounts are the result of identity theft.

Step Three

Complete an identity theft affidavit. Be sure to fill it out accurately and completely. You can be criminally prosecuted for lying in an identity theft affidavit.

Step Four

File a police report of the identity theft. No, the police probably won’t do anything to actually help; however, the police identity theft report itself is an invaluable and often required part of clearing up your credit information resulting from identity theft.

Step Five

Contact the three major credit bureaus in writing and request they delete the information that is the result of identity theft. Identify the information clearly and include a copy of the police report and identity theft affidavit to prove your request is valid.

Step Six

Contact each creditor involved and close all accounts that are the result of identity theft. As you did earlier, include a copy of the police report and identity theft affidavit. When you close the accounts also ask the lender to send you all the documentation it has about the account. This will later help with the investigation of the identity theft.

Step Seven

The final step to correctly report identity theft is to set an extended fraud alert on your credit reports. This alert is valid for seven years and works well to prevent future theft of your identity from occurring during that time.


Not all identity theft can be corrected in this way but the more simple case can be. If the above steps to report identity theft fail or if more complicated issues arise, such as criminal identity theft or mortgage identity theft, you should contact an attorney to assist you.

How to Prevent Identity Theft

Identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in history but it is relatively easy to prevent identity theft in most cases.  Millions of consumers fall victim to it every year and regrettably, the effects of identity theft are significant.  Many victims of identity theft are so traumatized they often report symptoms of mental and emotional distress similar to victims of violent crime.

The good news is that it is easy to prevent identity theft from happening to you.  Here are a few tips to stop identity theft before it ever occurs:

  • Use only secure Internet connections, websites, and browsers
  • Never open an email originating from an unknown source
  • Never click a link or open an attachment send to you by email
  • Use different passwords for different websites and make sure the passwords are too long and complicated to guess or decipher
  • Use security questions and answers for online websites to which you enroll
  • For online purchases use a credit card rather than a debit card
  • Always use software such as virus protection, firewalls, malware protection, and spam filters; even on smartphones and tablet computers
  • When possible use cash to pay for purchases
  • Never give out personal information over the telephone unless you initiated the call and are 100% certain you are giving it to a trusted company
  • Never carry you social security card in your wallet
  • Don’t disclose your social security number to anyone unless absolutely required
  • Carefully review all your financial records and billing statements every month to watch for unauthorized charges
  • Obtain your free Annual Credit Report once a year to check for unauthorized accounts opened in your name

Taking all of the above steps will prevent identity theft most of the time though it won’t prevent it all.  Even so, use caution in disclosing your personal information and you will be far less likely to become a victim than someone who is less guarded. The simple fact is that you are your own best defense to prevent identity theft.  If your identity does get stolen there are several steps you can take to restore your identity though it is better to avoid identity theft in the first place.

Credit Repair Scams: Part Two

We previously discussed a few common credit repair scams but believe it or not, there are additional deceptive or fraudulent acts in the credit repair world to be cautious about.

Purposely Delaying the Credit Repair Process

Most credit repair companies charge monthly fees which encourages them to work slowly or inefficiently. The simple fact is that the longer you stay enrolled the more money they make. Credit repair does take time but if the company has already disputed every disputable item twice and tells you the third time is a charm, they are probably lying. The truth is that disputing an item three or more times without any additional justification is highly unlikely to result in a deletion. The only certainty in this situation is that sending the additional disputes will cost you additional monthly fees.

Contractual Waivers of Consumer Rights

Though not strictly considered a credit repair scam, almost all credit repair companies put a waiver of your consumer rights clause in your contract. Arbitration clauses or waivers of your right to participate in a class action are the most common waivers used but others occur as well. In certain situations, such waivers are void and considered to be deceptive sales practices under the Credit Repair Organizations Act (CROA) and also under many state unfair practices acts. In some situations these waivers are actually legal, however, so consult a consumer rights attorney to find out whether this is a violation in your state. Frankly, however, even if these waivers were not unlawful or deceptive you should ask yourself if you really want to do business with a company that proclaims to be a champion of consumer rights yet is so willing to trample yours.

Taking Credit for False Deletions

Credit trade lines naturally fall off your reports after a certain amount of time. The period varies but is generally seven years. Some credit report repair organizations take credit for these natural fall-offs even when the company made no contribution whatsoever to that deletion. They will even take credit for items removed as a result of the client’s self-help efforts. Taking credit for the work of others or for the mere passage of time is a shameful practice but is rampant among credit report repair companies.

Misstating or Falsifying Results

Most credit repair organizations brag about their results. Testimonials are most common but numerous websites purporting to be unbiased reviews are also typical. Though it is difficult to detect which ones, many of those website reviews and testimonials are outright fakes. In many circumstances, the company will use commissioned agents or affiliates to enroll clients. Because the paychecks of these salesmen are tied directly to enrolling clients, they have ample incentive to falsify or exaggerate past results. Be cautious of any company who brags about past results that cannot be independently verified.


These and other credit repair rip-offs are shockingly common in the credit repair industry. Your best method of avoiding these scams is to completely ignore mainstream credit repair companies. Instead, do your own credit repair or find a licensed consumer law attorney who takes his oaths of integrity, diligence, and confidentiality seriously. Either way, it is always good practice to use your best judgment and never rely solely on the words of easily faked testimonials or commissioned sales persons.

Credit Repair Scams

You may be surprised to know that there are many common types of scams in the credit repair industry.  Under federal law any deceptive or fraudulent act by a credit repair organization is considered a credit repair scam but other acts can also be unlawful. Many states also have similar prohibitions.

Deceptive Representations

The most common credit repair rip-offs occur when the credit repair organization falsely promises or implies that it can achieve specific, improbable, or illegal results or that it has some special authority that other companies lack. Under the Credit Repair Organizations Act (CROA) such implications are prohibited. Numerous credit repair organizations commit this violation; however, it occurs most often with credit repair companies who use commissioned salesman to enroll clients. Because sales are driven by commissions, the truth is often obscured by false promises and outright deceptions.

Failure to Adhere to State Registration Requirements

In most states, credit repair organizations are required to register with the state as a credit repair organization. Many companies ignore this requirement and choose instead to operate unlawfully without the registration. Doing so violates not only many state deceptive sales practices acts but also violates CROA. A lack of the required registration is a credit repair scam because it constitutes an untrue or misleading representation of the credit repair organizations services and also constitutes a fraud or deception that the company is operating lawfully when it is not. This violation is surprisingly common.

Charging Fees before the Work is Fully Performed

Another commonly used tactic is to charge the consumer fees before the credit repair firm has fully completed the promised work. This ordinarily occurs when the firm charges a fee to setup the case without performing any substantive work or charges a monthly fee without performing any work the previous month. Indeed, such billing practices are fairly common in the industry.

Failure to Provide Required Disclosures

A less prevalent though still significant credit repair scam arises when the credit repair company fails to provide the consumer with the federally required disclosures. Under federal law, these companies are required to provide certain disclosures to the consumer to instruct the consumer of their legal rights.  Some companies fail to provide the disclosures in any form while others provide only partial disclosures. Either way is unlawful.


There are numerous other scams or rip-offs related to credit repair but the few discussed above are the most common. To avoid these swindles you should only hire a credit repair company who takes its ethical and legal obligations seriously and specifically charges you only for actual work performed rather than charging you junk fees to merely start your case. Use diligence and don’t rely solely on website reviews or a high volume of advertised clients to choose a credit repair partner. In most cases, your best partner in credit repair is going to be a local consumer law attorney who will work with you personally and in strict adherence to CROA and his state bar requirements.

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