The indictment of a Montana resident for identity theft last May has raised concerns regarding the susceptibility of other Montana residents to being targets of identity theft. According to recent reports from local journalists, identity theft is the most common form of fraud in the state of Montana.
The amount of reported fraud cases in Montana increased by over 50% since 2013. In 2014 the number of cases of identity theft grew by 39%, there being nearly 1500 reported cases in 2014 and 2015. These alarming numbers have worried officials and prompted them to issue warnings for residents to get familiar with what can be done to prevent themselves from falling victim to identity theft.
According to the document released last May, the perpetrator’s frauds were ongoing between April 2010 and September 2014. The perpetrator carried out his fraudulent scheme by filing false tax returns to get additional tax refunds by using the names and social security numbers of people he had gotten in contact with through Craigslist. He posted fake help-wanted ads on the popular classified site and requested personal information from people interested in work which didn’t exist. In order to receive the illicit tax return money, the individual would impersonate his victims and create bank accounts under their names. When some of the victims became aware of the perpetrator using their bank accounts, he provided false information by telling them to ignore the notices they received about getting tax returns.
The perpetrator is paying for his crimes by serving several years in prison, but the cost for the victims can be quite high. Credit ratings and personal finances can be severely affected, so it’s important for consumers to take preventative measures to avoid identity theft.
Victims of Identity Theft
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) instituted new safety regulations in 2016 to prevent people from falling victim to identity theft schemes. Most of these precautions are invisible to the taxpayer but are invaluable in helping the government combat identity theft.
Victims of tax-related identity theft are often unaware of being victims. They often don’t discover they are victims of fraud until they discover that the government thinks they have already filed a tax return.
If you should fall victim to identity fraud it’s important to continue paying taxes and filing returns. If you have fallen victim, the first step to address the problem is to file a complaint with the FTC.
Next, file a police report. Then you should contact the three credit bureaus to place a fraud alert on your credit records. You should also obtain a copy of your credit reports from all three credit reporting agencies and send a certified letter to all three credit reporting agencies disputing any false credit information. It is important to include a copy of the police report with this dispute letter. If the credit reporting agency continues to report inaccurate information on your credit report, it is necessary to contact a Montana credit report attorney to evaluate your case.
After contacting the credit bureaus, speak with your financial institution(s) and close any credit accounts which were opened with your documentation but without you knowledge. After the credit reporting agencies have conducted their investigation of the disputed credit information, it is also important to send a dispute letter to the financial institutions regarding any false credit information they continue to report about you to the credit reporting agencies. If your social security number (SSN) was compromised speak to the IRS immediately and complete IRS Form 14039. The IRS will advise on how to proceed.
Preventing Credit Report Disputes and Identity Theft
Prevention is the best means of protecting your identity from being stolen and ending up with a credit report dispute in Montana or elsewhere.
Always use security software on your computer along with strong passwords to prevent data breaches on your computer.
Don’t fall victim to phishing emails intended to make you give access to your personal information. No officials from financial institutions or elsewhere will ever request your password. If someone does ask for your password, it’s a sure sign of phishing.
Never click on links or attachments in emails which seem questionable.
Protect the physical copies of your personal information and avoid carrying your social security card around with you regularly.
Identity Theft and Credit Report Dispute Lawyers Montana
If you should fall victim to a phishing scheme or any other form of identity theft it’s important to contact credit report attorneys in Montana as soon as possible.
Although you may be an innocent victim, action is required on your part to bring litigation against the perpetrator or the institutions that allowed the fraud to be committed or the entities that wrongly report your credit information. In such cases our team of credit report dispute lawyers in Montana are here to advocate for you, and you never pay unless we win.