Being the victim of credit fraud is a nightmare. It often seems like there’s no way out. The creditors may treat you as if you are lying to them about the fraud, and will seldom correct the situation without strenuous efforts on your part. You may not even be able to show that the relevant charges were fraudulent, meaning you’re stuck with the bill. Many people consider filing for bankruptcy as a way out of this mess.
Credit Card Fraud
Credit fraud occurs when someone steals your credit card, or is able to learn the details of your identity and use those details to acquire money or property. Credit fraud is also often referred to as identity theft. There are good preventative steps that can be taken to protect against credit fraud, such as shredding documents which may have identifying information on them and being aware of usage of your credit.
One of the most important things to do is carefully examine your credit card statements every month, making sure everything on it is something you bought. If there is anything you are not sure of, question it. It may be from an online company from which you actually purchased something, but the name on the statement may be different. Often the telephone number will be right there in the bill. Question and investigate until you are sure of every charge.
One of the problems of our modern age of which we have heard a lot lately is the theft of consumer information from online retailers. When such thefts do occur, the retailer may have your credit card information, but they usually will not have your social security number, your birth date, or other vital information.
It is a good idea not to carry all of your credit cards with you. That way, if you lose your wallet or purse, or it is stolen, there are fewer credit companies to notify. If you lose your debit card, you can usually get a new one quickly from your bank.
Monitoring Your Credit
Under federal law, a consumer can get a free copy of their credit report from each of the credit bureaus once every twelve months. Examining your credit reports will alert you to anything that is unusual. Make sure you get the credit reports directly from the credit bureaus, and not from any third-party web site, as the latter’s reports often have very little of the detail that the reports straight from the bureaus have. The major credit bureaus are Experian, Trans Union, and Equifax. You may also sign up for credit monitoring with one of the major credit bureaus. They’ll notify you when new accounts are applied for under your name.
Some credit fraud cases are perpetrated by someone close to the victim, whether a family member or a friend. Be aware that if you know the person who defrauded you and want the creditor to take care of the charges, they may require you to file a police report. In some cases, even if you do not know the person who committed the fraud, you may still be required to file a police report.
Dealing With Fraud
When you find a fraudulent charge on your card, you should immediately notify all three credit bureaus of the fraud. You should also call the card issuer and have them issue you a new card with a new number. The bank is not responsible for watching your card – you are. If you fail to notify the bank that you’ve been the victim of fraud, you’ll be stuck with the charges. Each card issuer has a slightly different process for dealing with claims of fraud, so call or visit them online to learn the proper procedure.
Filing for Bankruptcy
In New Jersey, as in other states, debts that arise through credit fraud can be discharged in bankruptcy. That’s one way of dealing with credit fraud you can’t get rid of. Not only will the debts be discharged, but the bankruptcy will appear on your credit report and no one will be able to get credit under your name. It is important to let your attorney know which debts are fraudulent and which are not, especially if the total comes out to be very high. Cases with high debt sometimes come under tighter scrutiny, and it is important to let the Court know that the large total is the result of fraud.
When preparing for a bankruptcy that involves credit fraud, get credit reports from all three major credit bureaus so that you can list everything on your bankruptcy papers. You may not even know what the bureaus think you owe, especially where the thief has directed the mail on the account to another address.