Tag: Tax Identity Theft Awareness

Roger Zamparo Jr., appears on legal podcast on identity theft issues and remedies

Identity theft awareness and education is increasing due to the efforts of consumer law attorneys and the agencies charged with policing consumer credit and debt management and collection, such as the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). Identity theft has evolved with technology and it is easier than ever for thieves to hack computer systems and gain access to your private financial and personal information. The days of dumpster diving may soon be in the past. Meanwhile, the damage caused by identity thieves can linger for years if the identity theft victim fails to take proper action when they discover identity theft.

Use the link to listen the original article with the published link to the podcast, hosted by the Illinois Licensing Consultants and the Chicago health law and litigation firm, Michael V. Favia and Associates, P.C.

Spotting identity theft and taking action with Roger Zamparo

Podcast subject matter:

  • How do identity thieves operate and what do they do with your information?
  • What are some of the new ways thieves use technology to steal identities?
  • How much damage can identity theft cause, in addition to credit problems?
  • What legal remedies are available to credit theft victims and how does it work?
  • If we learn identity theft happens when it is too late, how can we be safe?

Roger explains identity theft and the Zamparo Law Group’s comprehensive response and action plans for clients who learn that someone stole their identity. Roger stresses the importance of ordering quarterly credit reports from www.AnnualCreditReport.com, the official and free service consumers can use to spot and respond to errors in their credit report. Roger states that the Zamparo Law Group does not charge clients for the initial and sometimes very intensive research into the identity breach. Clients learn how and what to do in requesting the credit reporting groups properly reflect your accurate credit history and eliminate any negative marks in connection with identity theft. There are many credit reporting agencies in the marketplace, and some are specialized and few people know about them. If these credit reporting agencies fail to correct your credit report, the Zamparo Law Group can sue them and get paid by them, not you.

The Zamparo Law Group helps men and women fight back against identity theft. Zamparo Law Group attorneys fight and win in court, individually and in consumer rights class action lawsuits.

The Zamparo Law Group, P.C. is a consumer protection law and litigation firm, representing consumer plaintiffs. Zamparo Law Group in the northwest suburbs of Chicago sues and wins against the companies who refuse to follow the law.

To learn more about consumer protection law and the Zamparo Law Group, please visit the firm’s website. You may also ask for a free case review. The Zamparo Law Group is connected on social media, please follow us and share our resources we share on our FacebookTwitter and LinkedIn pages. You may call the Zamparo Law Group with any questions by dialing (224) 875-3202.

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Consumer complaints, rising with with new technologies, help warn the public

Technology and the increased access to consumer complaint information may correlate with recent consumer complaint data collected and summarized by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The FTC’s mission is to “prevent business practices that are anti-competitive or deceptive or unfair to consumers; to enhance informed consumer choice and public understanding of the competitive process; and to accomplish this without unduly burdening legitimate business activity.” The FTC collects information received about debt collection, identity theft, and improper scams. In response to the analysis of consumer complaints, the FTC compiled a new agency data book, full of state-by-state statistics, as well as they increased enforcement efforts, to take action against companies that violate the laws protecting consumers from illegal debt collection practices and other similar fraudulent behavior. Compared to years past, when consumers were violated and felt alone, today we can easily identify other victims and patterns of negative and abusive behavior, which is increasingly easy to report and fight back through the FTC and attorneys who sue and win individual civil and class action lawsuits.

Frequent consumer complaints about debt collection, tax identity theft and general scams

Reviewing the FTC Annual Summary of Consumer Complaints, one might think debt collection efforts and disputes are at an all time high, rising to the top spot among consumer complaints, with 897,655 recorded FTC complaints, representing 29 percent of the total number of complaints. According to the FTC report, a new mobile app contributed to a significant increase in complaints through mobile devices. The takeaway is when it is easier for consumers to file a complaint, more consumers are likely to do so. When more consumers make complaints, other consumers can find that information and learn to avoid doing business with companies who do not follow consumer laws.

In second and third place, respectively, are consumer complaints about tax identity theft and general scams operated by the typical bad actors. Tax identity theft is particularly threatening because victims usually have no idea there was an identity theft until after the IRS rejects their tax return, telling them they have already filed and received their refund. The FTC report indicates identity theft accounts for 490,220, 16 percent of consumer complaints. To learn more about tax identity fraud and identity theft please refer to our blog article titled, Identity theft awareness, prevent fraudulent use of personal information.

The general, imposter scams make up 11 percent of consumer reports to the FTC, totaling 353,770 complaints in 2015. The FTC publishes consumer information used to spot government imposter scams, where imposters pretend to be government officials as they contact taxpayers and try to get them to pay them directly for taxes or fees they owe. Government imposter scams often target less sophisticated consumers and may involve threats of jail if they do not immediately pay the money the imposter says they owe. When consumers report the details of the scams, the FTC and similar agencies and law firms representing individual clients, are better able to warn the public about the types of scams being used to defraud innocent consumers.

About the new FTC agency data book

The Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book for January – December 2015 is 104 page PDF resource based on consumer complaints received by more than a dozen state and federal agencies to whom consumers report fraud and bad actors and scammers. These agencies share information through the Consumer Sentinel Network, a secure online database only available to law enforcement. The collection of information started in 1997 and the Consumer Sentinel Network has increased its efforts since its inception and today it receives almost 12 million complaints the FTC sorts into 30 complaint categories. The information in the data book is compelling and worth a review, to become more aware of the typical threats to consumers.

FTC enforcement efforts against unscrupulous companies violating consumer laws

The FTC summary addresses the increased enforcement efforts underway in 2015, involving federal, state and local cooperation in sharing information, investigating and prosecuting defendants engaged in illegal debt collection, and banning those offenders from the industry.

The purpose of the FTC is to enforce consumer rights laws, such as the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) and the Federal Trade Commission Act (FTC Act). For more information, please review our blog article group explaining enforcement of the FDCPA. The joint efforts of agencies engaged in FTC enforcement help bring consumer law violators to justice, and face being banned and paying significant penalties. As more summaries of reports of consumer law violations are promoted to the public, there is an increased opportunity for individual consumers to help law enforcement take down individuals and companies who use deceptive, unfair and abusive debt collection practices.

Being vigilant in addressing consumer fraud: Good consumer habits

The attorneys at the Zamparo Law Group frequently advocate for consumers who have been injured by consumer rights violators. Many victims are already cautious consumers, and are still victimized despite their best precautions. The best defense against consumer fraud can be early detection and damage mitigation. Knowing your finances exactly, and having quick access to all your financial information and records is important. Good record keeping of financial statements may also be important in the event your identity is stolen. In the event of FDCPA abuses, early action in following the right legal procedures is important. There are so many formats of consumer fraud abuse, and it if something does not seem right, it is a good idea to say something and ask an attorney to review your situation.

The Zamparo Law Group can help consumers fight for their consumer rights. Being knowledgeable and aware of consumer law is important. When you see something, say something. We fight and win in court, individually and in class action lawsuits.

The Zamparo Law Group, P.C. is a consumer protection law and litigation firm, representing consumer plaintiffs. Zamparo Law Group in the northwest suburbs of Chicago sues and wins against the companies who refuse to follow the law.

To learn more about consumer protection law and the Zamparo Law Group, please visit the firm’s website. You may also ask for a free case review. The Zamparo Law Group is connected on social media, please follow us and share our resources we share on our Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn pages. You may call the Zamparo Law Group with any questions by dialing (224) 875-3202.

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Fighting identity theft and making identity theft victims whole

White-collar crime is not victimless crime; victims of identity theft suffer significant losses and hardships. Advances in technology and Internet commerce are helping safeguard our private information but thieves and hackers are learning advanced methods to steal identities. Damage suffered by identity theft victims can be extensive and lead to long-term problems. Unfortunately, most people will not know their identity is stolen until after damage is done. The identify thief may have obtained a drivers license, insurance, bank accounts, credit cards and bought a new car, all in your name. What happens when the identity thief does not pay the bills that are in your name and affect your credit? What happens with the identity thief is arrested for DUI with their license in your name? What happens when a police officer comes to your house and arrests you for a crime you did not commit?

We say, “It won’t happen to me, I’m safe and cautious with my personal information.”

Imagine you never use credit or debit cards online or over the phone; you shred all mail with your personal information and pick up your mail the minute the post office delivers it to your home. Identity thieves will get your information if they want it. Whether they hack into systems, where your private information is kept or they buy illegal lists of identities and private information on the black market, there is little anyone can do to stop a thief. Another target for identity theft may be a company, such as an insurance provider, that failed to adequately secure your information from thieves. On a local scale, the family law firm down the street may have client files, full of private information, and an unscrupulous night cleaning crew who hit the identity theft jackpot. In many cases, the thieves simply sell your identity on the black market, to domestic and foreign buyers.

Identity theft can be a disaster for victims, left with a damaged life and reputation.

Cancelling and ordering new credit cards is one thing. Proving you did not commit a hit and run collision causing death is quite another. An identity thief could feasibly obtain all necessary information to register a stolen vehicle in your name and even insure it with your driver’s license number. If the thief causes a collision while pretending to be you, they can simply abandon the assumed identity, move along to the next victim, and become them. Along the way, your credit could be ruined and the work it takes to restore your credit rating is extensive. Tax identity theft is also on the rise. Thieves use tax filing websites to file phony returns in your name, have tax refunds deposited into phony accounts they open in your name, and when you file your actual tax return the IRS rejects your return, and audits everything tied to your name and social security number.

There are state and federal criminal and civil penalties for thieves, and remedies for victims.

In Illinois, a person commits identity theft, “uses any personal identifying information or personal identification document of another person to fraudulently obtain credit, money, goods, services, or other property.[i]” Illinois law classifies identity theft as a felony with increasing severity and penalties as the value of the theft of goods or services increases:

  1. Identity theft of credit, money, goods, services, or other property not exceeding $300 in value is a Class 4 felony.
  2. Identity theft of credit, money, goods, services, or other property exceeding $300 and not exceeding $2,000 in value is a Class 3 felony.
  3. Identity theft of credit, money, goods, services, or other property exceeding $2,000 and not exceeding $10,000 in value is a Class 2 felony.
  4. Identity theft of credit, money, goods, services, or other property exceeding $10,000 and not exceeding $100,000 in value is a Class 1 felony.

Under federal law, possession and transfer of private information to create or use a false identity is punishable by fines and prison terms of not more than five to 30 years.[ii]

Individual victims of identity theft may have a cause of action and file a lawsuit against the identity thieves, if they catch them and can collect damages if the thief is caught and illegally obtained assets are available for sale and recovery by a victim. A much more likely scenario is a lawsuit against a company who was negligent with your information and the identity theft occurred as a result of that negligence. The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) is a source of federal law providing remedies for consumer victims of identity theft.[iii] Victims can recover money for violations of the FCRA when your information was mishandled, and recovery can include actual damages, statutory damages and attorney’s fees.

To learn more about the FCRA and its enforcement, read our blog article, The Fair Credit Reporting Act, responsibilities and remedies for consumer reporting violations.

Cleaning up the damage: What else we can do to remedy your negative effects

If you are an identity theft victim, the attorneys at the Zamparo Law Group can assist and advise you about the process of contacting all the contacts on your accounts with banks, credit agencies, driver’s license facilities, the Social Security office, and with making proper reports of identity theft crime to the proper state and federal agencies. The paperwork involved can be extensive and there may be a specific order in the process of restoring your proper identity and canceling your bogus version of you.

The Zamparo Law Group can help consumers fight identity theft and companies who fail to safeguard your private information. We fight and win in court, individually and in class action lawsuits.

The Zamparo Law Group, P.C. is a consumer protection law and litigation firm, representing consumer plaintiffs. Zamparo Law Group in the northwest suburbs of Chicago sues and wins against the companies who refuse to follow the law.

To learn more about consumer protection law and the Zamparo Law Group, please visit the firm’s website. You may also ask for a free case review. The Zamparo Law Group is connected on social media, please follow us and share our resources we share on our FacebookTwitter and LinkedIn pages. You may call the Zamparo Law Group with any questions by dialing (224) 875-3202.

 

 

[i] 720 ILCS 5/16-30

[ii] 18 U.S. Code § 1028

[iii] Fair Credit Reporting Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1681

Image Source: Identity theft complaints on the rise in Wisconsin http://bit.ly/1L7ksKd

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Identity theft awareness, prevent fraudulent use of personal information

Every year, millions of people are affected by the intentional misuse of their personal information. “Identity Theft” can take place within families just as easily as it can result from international computer hacking scandals. There are many ways thieves and scammers can obtain your personal information and use it to steal from you and open credit accounts in your name, file fraudulent tax returns, obtain employment, and create a false version of you. With regard to tax fraud, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), who enforces laws related to credit transactions, designates January 25 – 29, 2016, as Tax Identity Theft Awareness Week.[i] As the holidays approach, it is important to beware of identity theft and start taking measures to prevent the loss and fraudulent use of our personal information.

Purse-snatchers and muggers make up an obvious category of thieves who can take your wallet and walk off with enough information to steal your identity. When someone is robbed, they often know that the first thing to do is call and cancel credit and bank cards, often before filing a police report. However, when a thief steals our trash or mail, it could be years before an identity theft is discovered, possibly at the point of denial of a credit card, auto or home loan, by which time it is possible significant damage is done.

What happens when someone steals your identity and you do not find out until later?

Victims of identity theft might learn their identity was stolen after they are denied credit, a job or run into a tax problem, when they immediately order a copy of their credit report. Some identity theft victims who do not regularly apply for credit cards or jobs, find out a thief opened a significant amount of accounts in their names and may be spending money wildly and financing cars and luxury items. If a consumer does not often or check their credit report, years could pass before an identity theft discovery. The more time that passes, the worse the damage can be, and the more effort it can take to repair the damage. The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) requires the three major credit-reporting agencies (Equifax, TransUnion and Experian) to provide you a copy of your credit report, free of charge, one time per year. The web link for a free credit report is www.AnnualCreditReport.com and there is an explanation on the Federal Trade Commission web page on Free Credit Reports.

Consumers can remove fraudulent accounts and contest negative credit marks as they work to restore their credit rating and reputation with lenders. The process may be complicated and involve the use of consumer protection laws including the FCRA. The Zamparo Law Group represents individuals of identity theft, using the law and experience in consumer law and identity theft and recovery to help clients rebuild their credit.

While there is no absolute way to prevent identity theft, you can make it less likely to happen.

Take out your wallet right now and look at its contents, laying everything out on the table, looking for any personal information about you to which the public would not have access. The personal information needed in a recipe for identity theft can include your full name, addresses, phone numbers, social security number, date of birth, bank, credit and utility accounts. Only carry the items you need on a daily basis. Put social security cards and other non-essential cards and information in a secure place at home.

Social media accounts, which can be hacked, contain personal information about us that can be used in identity theft. Do you publish your date of birth on Facebook? Did you just receive a friend request from someone who looks familiar enough? They could be a false friend looking for the last bit of information to go to town with your identity.

Make it a habit to protect your personal information. How often do credit card offers arrive in the mail and go directly into the trash or recycling? How often do we sit and watch our trashcans to make sure a thief does not rummage through and steal documents displaying our personal information? Go buy a shredder, any size and model, and put one or more in conspicuous places in your home so the mail with personal information goes in the shredder. Additionally, when going on vacation, make sure the mail is collected by a neighbor or held at the post office, to not leave it open to being stolen.

Order a copy of your credit report once a year or more. Make it a habit to watch out for identity theft.

Do you ever receive phone calls from creditors looking for someone who owes money for a bill? Is your phone number is the one on file with the credit card company? This is a red flag that someone could be using your phone number, and who knows what else, to open credit accounts in your name and ruin your credit rating, causing significant damage and liability. If you receive strange phone calls, mail or have a hunch that something is not right, go to Annual Credit Report[ii] and get started.

Protecting yourself is the first step, but if you are already a victim, the consumer protection attorneys at the Zamparo Law Group, P.C. can help you undo the negative effects of identity theft and help you get back on track.

The Zamparo Law Group, P.C. is a consumer protection law and litigation firm that files lawsuits against violators of the FCRA and federal and state consumer protection laws. Teaching consumers how to spot consumer rights violations is important because informed consumers can stand up to those who violate the law.

To learn more about consumer protection law and the Zamparo Law Group, please visit the firm’s website. You may also ask for a free case review. The Zamparo Law Group is connected on social media, please follow us and share our resources we share on our Facebook page. You may call the Zamparo Law Group with any questions by dialing (224) 875-3202.

 

[i] Federal Trade Commission, Consumer Information, Tax Identity Theft Awareness Week

[ii] www.AnnualCreditReport.com or call 1-877-322-8228 to obtain your free credit report

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