Dear Debt Adviser,
I have a credit card company wanting to take me to court for a debt that is not mine. I have disputed these charges for almost two years now.
I’ve sent a certified letter to the collection agency and asked for proof or some verification why it believes this is my account. However, the agency has not provided me with anything. I’ve asked the agency’s attorney for the same information, but he will not respond to me either.
What should I do? I know someone else has used my name and information to obtain credit cards, but how can I prove this to the credit card company so it will leave me alone?
My wife often tells me that what she needs is the equivalent of the proverbial “2-by-4 upside the head” to get some people’s attention. Of course, she’s speaking figuratively and I have no idea who she’s talking about — although I do pay attention to anything longer than her violin that she may carry into my vicinity!
The same may apply here. It sounds as though these guys are just ignoring your requests and merrily doing what they want. Well, it’s time to end the merriment.
Here are four metaphorical 2-by-4s for you to swing:
1. Send them a certified letter with a copy to the Federal Trade Commission. The Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act of 2003 was created to help clear your name and credit history from what you believe is identity theft. It gives consumers rights regarding what collectors must do or not do in relation to a reported theft.
Begin by reporting the theft with your local police and also file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission. Once you have the police report and the complaint form from the FTC, you will need to contact the collection agency.
Write to the collector saying you have reported the account in question as identity theft. The rules in the FACT Act require the collector to inform the original creditor that the account may be fraudulent or the result of identity theft. Once the account has been identified as identity theft, it cannot be resold to another collector or placed for collections.
2. Contact the credit bureaus to block the account. Next, contact your favorite credit bureau (Experian, Equifax or TransUnion) and report the account as identity theft. Once reported, the bureau is required to notify the other two bureaus of the account’s status as identity theft. You will need to provide the bureau with a copy of the identity theft police report and appropriate proof of your identity. You’ll also need to ask the bureau to block information about fraudulent accounts from being reported on your file.
3. Issue a fraud alert or freeze. In addition to blocking the information from being reported on your credit report, you also need to request a fraud alert be placed on your credit report. Once again, you only need to contact one bureau — the others will be informed by that bureau. The fraud alert will alert a potential creditor to exercise more than usual caution before issuing any new credit in your name.
You may also freeze your credit report. This will stop any new access to your credit file. However, existing creditors and collectors will still have access to review your accounts.
Security freezes are designed to prevent release of your credit report without your consent. But this may slow down legitimate future access to your file, causing delays when you apply for new loans, rental housing, employment, cellular telephone purchases, Internet credit card transactions and extensions of credit at point of sale.
4. Have your people call their people. Not for lunch! Instead, have an attorney send the collection agency’s attorney a tough letter demanding the information you have requested. It’s amazing what collectors will do, or stop doing, when they get a letter from a lawyer.
The Debt Adviser, Steve Bucci, is the president of Money Management International Financial Education Foundation and the author of “Credit Repair Kit for Dummies.” Visit MMI for additional debt advice or to ask a question of the Debt Adviser go to the “Ask the Experts” page and select “debt” as the topic.