If someone steals your identity and fraudulently incurs debts in your name, California law provides certain protections to you if a debt collector tries to collect those debts. Read on to learn how to notify a debt collector or creditor that you are the victim of identity theft, and what the obligations of the debt collector are when it receives such notice.
(If you are concerned about the effect that the debt will have on your credit report, visit our Cleaning Up Your Credit Report area. To learn more about preventing and dealing with identity theft, visit our Identity Theft area.)
The California Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (CFDCPA) protects California residents against abusive or deceptive debt collection. It must be followed by debt collectors and creditors collecting their own debts. The CFDCPA contains specific protections for debt collection if you are the victim of identity theft.
(To learn more about the CFDCPA, see California Fair Debt Collection Laws.)
Under the CFDCPA, here’s what happens if you notify a debt collector or creditor that the debt it is trying to collect was the result of identity theft:
First, the debt collector or creditor must temporarily stop collection efforts.
Second, the collector or creditor must conduct a good faith inquiry based on the information you gave to it. If it is not the original creditor, the debt collector must verify the debt or judgment from the original creditor.
The third step depends on what the collector determines after its inquiry.
In order for the above protections to kick in, you must notify the debt collector or creditor that the debt arose from identity theft. Here are some ways to do that.
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You can get a police report of fill out a government affidavit and send it to the collector. Any one of the following will work.
You can also write your own statement (called a “certification”) to give to the debt collector. You should include a sentence stating, “I certify the representations made are true, correct, and contain no material omissions of fact.” This means that you have to be completely honest about the identity theft, and you cannot withhold any information that the debt collector may need to know.
Include the following in your statement:
Date and sign your letter, and include the city you are in when you sign it.
If you already informed the debt collector that you were the victim of identity theft, but didn’t use one of the above methods of notification, the collector may:
If a debt collector or creditor violated your rights as an identity theft victim under the CFDCPA, you may sue for damages. If you are successful in the lawsuit, a court may award you any actual damages you incurred because of the violation as well as attorney’s fees. In addition, if the debt collector acted “willfully and knowingly,” then a court should award you an additional $100 to $1,000.