Identity Theft & The IRS

QUESTION: A company that I used to work for opened a PayPal account using my name and SS #. Is this identity theft? 

A company that I used to work for opened a PayPal account using my name and SS #. I stopped working there in 2008. I was contacted by the IRS that I had unclaimed income on my 2012 return and was asked to pay over $10,000 plus interest. This was for monies payed by PayPal to the company and not to me. Although they have now admitted that the payments were sent to them and not me I am concerned that they may have used my name and SS# for other accounts which the IRS will come after me for. Should I – a) file a stolen ID report with the Police and b) take legal action against this company?

ANSWER: This sort of identity theft is becoming more and more common: the victim’s social security number is used to avoid paying taxes; or worse, the victim’s social security number is used to get access to a tax refund.

I would suggest you complain to the local police department. If you have sufficient information about the company that stole your ID, you may want to pursue it as well.

From a consumer rights perspective: I strongly urge you to check your credit bureau reports. You may obtain a free copy of your reports through www.AnnualCreditReport.com. If you find any suspicious information, you should immediately contact the credit bureaus and have a fraud alert issued. I would also suggest you contact a consumer rights attorney that can help you wade through the credit reporting mess. Most consumer rights attorneys do not charge an upfront fee for their time and will work on a contingency.

This information is provided for educational purposes only. There is no attorney-client relationship with Karni Law Firm until a contract is signed by the attorney and the client.

 

Mail Theft & Fraud

QUESTION: Mail theft and possibly fraud. Ex girlfriend stole. Illegal?

I found out that my ex had both stolen my keys, in addition to a few packages out of mailbox. Not on lease, not married.

ANSWER: Yes, this sounds illegal. If you have concerns that she is also stealing your credit, I would suggest you request a fraud alert with the credit bureaus. I would also suggest that you monitor your credit reports on a regular basis going forward. You may obtain a free copy of your credit reports once every year from each of the three credit bureaus at www.AnnualCreditReport.com. If you discover that accounts were taken out in your name, you will want to file a police report. Send that police report to the original creditors and the credit bureaus in order to clear your name. If the accounts are not removed from your name, you would have grounds to sue under the Fair Credit Reporting Act.

This information is provided for educational purposes only. There is no attorney-client relationship with Karni Law Firm until a contract is signed by the attorney and the client.

Using A Credit Card Without Prior Authorization

QUESTION: Can your spouse give you a credit card to use without you signing your signature or authorizing any paperwork you haven’t seen?

Anyone can give you a credit card to use, if they authorized your use with the credit card company. You should find out whether your social security number was used in obtaining the credit card account. If any credit card was taken out (even by your spouse!) without your knowledge, you should dispute it, close it, and ultimately you might need to file a police report for forgery/fraudulent use of your private information. 

The other issue to keep in mind: your spouse may have legally taken the card out using their social security information only. They may be kind enough to give you the card to use at your leisure or discretion. If, however, there is a debt that is built up and your spouse defaults, you might also be sued for the full balance: not just your purchases, but your spouse’s purchases too. The reason for that obligation has to do with Marriage and Community Property laws in the State of Texas. 

I have handled cases in the past where one spouse did not know that the other spouse was running up a debt. Any expenses that are used to benefit the household are joint obligations of both the husband and the wife. If, on the other hand, your spouse is taking vacations alone, you would not necessarily be obligated on that amount of debt. 

You should seek the advice of a family lawyer if your intention is to maintain your marriage as “separate property” as opposed to the usual “community property” which is the default marriage and finance situation in Texas. You should also seek the advice of a consumer lawyer if the account was taken out without your knowledge and it is negatively effecting your credit reports/score.

This information is provided for educational purposes only. There is no attorney-client relationship with Karni Law Firm until a contract is signed by the attorney and the client.

QUESTION: You Were Given A Credit Card With Only Your Name On It, Can Your Spouse Also Use It?

There are issues here that also touch upon family law and community property which essentially mean that expenses and debt incurred for the family and the household are owed by both spouses. There are ways to avoid community property, for which I would suggest first consulting with a family law attorney before taking such action. If one’s spouse made charges solely for their personal benefit, the other spouse, for whom the card is officially in their name, might not be obligated to share that burden under a theory of community property. But that spouse would be obligated if they had authorized their spouse to use the card.

The other, and perhaps bigger issue relates to consumer rights and unauthorized use of the credit card. If one spouse takes out a card in the name of the other spouse without their knowledge – even if it was done by the other spouse – an option might be to consider closing the account. Being married and living in a community property state does mean that one must open them self and their credit worthiness up to fraud. In fact, a significant amount of identity theft occurs within families. A suggestion might be to contact the credit card company to find out: who opened the account, why it was opened in one’s name without prior authorization, and whether some of the charges can still be disputed.

I would also strongly recommend pulling a free copy of your credit reports through www.AnnualCreditReport.com to find out if there are other accounts in your name that you are not aware of. Finally, it is advisable to consider consulting with a consumer rights attorney.

This information is provided for educational purposes only. There is no attorney-client relationship with Karni Law Firm until a contract is signed by the attorney and the client.

If I change my SSN what happens to my debt?

QUESTION: If I change my SSN what happens to my debt? I received a letter in the mail today about an inquiry for credit that I never requested. I don’t know if someone else has my information and/or what damage may have been done that I haven’t noticed. I know I have some debt of my own, but would changing my social security number be like a poor man’s bankruptcy or would it still follow me over to the new number?

ANSWER: The Social Security Administration does not allow anyone, even victims of identity theft, to switch out their old social security number for a new one very easily. While it may be possible to get a new SSN, it is extremely difficult and rare.

I would suggest you pull a free copy of your credit reports through www.AnnualCreditReport.com. That website was designed to follow Federal Trade Commission regulation to allow every consumer one free credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus every 12 months. It will link you directly to TransUnion, Equifax and Experian.

In reviewing your credit reports, you will want to see whether there are any new accounts that you do not recognize. You can also have a look at the back of the credit report to see whether there are inquiries made by companies that you did not authorize. Hard inquiries are usually made before a lender extends new credit. There are also soft inquiries that are usually made by your existing lenders just to check up on you.

You can request a short-term or long-term fraud alert be linked to your social security number. You should also call the company that mailed you the letter and ask what it’s all about. If you are going to let that bank, or anyone else know that your identity has been stolen, you should send certified mail with a return receipt so that you have a paper trail. You may also want to file a police report that you can attach to your letter to lenders and the major consumer reporting agencies.

Finally, you may want to consult with an attorney. Most attorneys who handle consumer credit and debt collection abuse cases do not charge their clients an up front fee. The reason for this is because the Fair Credit Reporting Act (as well as the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act) allow consumers to collect damages as well as their attorney fees and court costs.

I wish you luck.

These materials have been prepared by Karni Law Firm, P.C. for educational and informational purposes only and are not intended to be legal advice. This communication does not necessarily reflect the opinions of Dana Karni or of Karni Law Firm, P.C. or any of its attorneys, employees, or clients, and are not guaranteed to be correct, complete, or up-to-date. This site is not intended to create, and access to or receipt of information included in this site does not constitute, a lawyer-client relationship. No one should act upon this information without seeking professional counsel. Although we would be pleased to communicate with you by e-mail or otherwise, do not send us information until you speak with one of our lawyers and get authorization to send that information to us. Please be aware that if you communicate with us by e-mail or otherwise in connection with a matter for which we do not already represent you, your communication may not be treated as privileged or confidential. If you communicate with us by e-mail in connection with a matter for which we already represent you, please remember that Internet e-mail is not secure and you may wish to take steps to encrypt sensitive or confidential materials before sending them on the Internet.

How to get it off credit?

QUESTION: Mom put utilities in my name when I was 17. Moved out at 18 in another state paying my own utilities. How to get it off credit? I didn’t know about it. She stopped paying 2 years later.

RESPONSE: If someone opened an account in your name without your permission, you are encouraged to file a police report for identity theft and/or forgery. That police report will help you in your dispute with the utility company and/or the credit reporting agencies. The sensitive issue you need to contend with is whether to report your mother. Often times, when family members are involved in identity theft, the victim does not want to make the report and turn them in to the authorities.

If you are willing to file the complaint, you will need to turn that in to the credit bureaus and the utility company with your written dispute. Mail your dispute by certified mail with return receipt requested. If the negative information does not come off of your credit reports, then you will have grounds to sue under the Fair Credit Reporting Act. You will be entitled to collect your damages, as well as your attorney’s fees (which is why many consumer rights attorneys can handle these cases on a full contingency.)