What to Do If You're the Victim of Identity Theft  (continued)

When you inform a company that you didn't open the account, they might respond with a request for you to send them a statement, perhaps notarized, wherein you officially claim you are the victim of identity theft and did not open the accounts nor use them to make purchases.  The typical notary charges $20.00 to notarize a document.  If the thief has opened 3, 4, or more acccounts in your name, you can see how expensive cleaning up the mess is going to be.  Some victims have had to spend as much as $240.00 getting documents notarized.

As long as you can prove that you didn't open the fraudulent account(s), there is little chance that you will have to pay the bill.  However, the major damage that occurs from identity theft is the damage to one's credit rating.  Victims sometimes have a hard time keeping these accounts off of their credit reports -- they're deleted, then reappear, then are deleted again, only to reappear.  Some people have actually become so frustrated that they decided to pay the accounts in hopes of improving their credit rating, but you should never do this.

Some unscrupulous banks will insist that you must pay for the fake checks used to pull money out of your account and even the overdraft charges, etc. that resulted from the fraud.  But a former bank president wants you to know that this is not true -- that banks have a duty to verify each and every check and are responsible for reimbursing you for money taken out of your accounts fraudulently.  He advises you to take them to small claims court if they refuse to reimburse you for monies taken from your bank accounts.

Be aware that creditors want you to give up and give in and pay for whatever the thief has taken from them.  This is why they often act incompetent when they are told about identity theft -- it is to encourage victims to give up and just pay the debt.  But don't!!!!  Instead, send certified letters demanding the accounts be permanently removed from your credit report.  Save copies of these letters and the green certified receipt postcards you get back from the post office.  Send proof to the credit bureaus as well, demanding that the accounts be removed from your credit report.  If you have to take legal action, then do so, but don't be bullied into paying debt that isn' yours.

Can you sue the creditor for negligence? 

Not likely.  Even if you did, you wouldn't get much out of them.  Congress allows creditors to issue credit negligently.  This is because the banking industry contributes heavily to congressional campaigns and Congress rewards them by letting the banking industry operate with little regulation regarding the proper verification of credit applications. 

The company, bank, etc., is considered to be the victim of identity theft, not you.  (This is because they are going to have to eat the loss.)  This is why identity theft is rarely prosecuted and, even when it is, the penalties are often minor, particularly for first time offenders.  Most creditors find it cheaper to write off such debt rather than prosecute the offenders, even when they are caught red-handed by the police and identified.

Next topic:  How to Protect Yourself From Identity Theft
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