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Help limit damage from identity theft with a few quick actions.
This video for legal services attorneys, social workers, and other advocates explains how identity theft can affect their clients’ ability to get a loan, job, housing or government benefits. View it and learn how advocates can use the FTC’s Taking Charge and Guide for Assisting Identity Theft Victims to help a client resolve identity theft related problems.
Identity theft is a big problem: 9 million victims a year, according to an estimate from the Federal Trade Commission.
Hi. I’m Tracy Thomas and I’m an attorney at the federal trade commission. I also work on the FTC's Legal Services Collaboration.
The collaboration reaches out to legal services providers to help consumers they serve.
For example, we provide practical information on consumer protection issues. We also create and distribute free consumer education materials that are available in both English and Spanish.
For some issues we have materials available in other languages as well.
Finally, we gather complaints to learn about practices affecting the consumers in communities where legal services providers work. Our hope is to achieve the common goal that we both have, to protect consumers in need.
Now here's Laura Stack to talk about identity theft and free FTC resources available for you.
Identity theft starts when someone steals your personal information, but frankly, it rarely ends there.
A thief may use a stolen Social Security number to file tax returns, open new accounts, get a job, or even get medical care.
Identity theft can ruin someone’s financial status and credit history, and can interfere with their ability to get a job, a loan, or benefits from the government.
And it may be the underlying cause of some problems that your clients report. For example…
Someone may come to your office asking for help with a family matter, a housing issue, public benefits, or maybe a bankruptcy.
The person may have been turned down for credit or a student loan. She may have gotten a notice from the IRS saying she owes back taxes. She might find debts on her credit report that aren’t hers. Or, she may have had her utility service turned off, or been denied housing or benefits.
Any one of these problems can be a sign of identity theft.
The first thing you can do is give the person a copy of Taking Charge, a free booklet from the FTC.
It’s a step-by-step guide that lists priorities for victims -- what to do now and what to do later.
It has sample forms and letters your clients can use to contact credit reporting companies, businesses or health care providers.
You know, it can take a lot of time and persistence to sort out the problems identity theft can cause. But the forms and checklists in Taking Charge help people keep track of deadlines, phone calls and responses.
Resolving identity theft may seem overwhelming, especially for a person who’s struggling with uncooperative creditors or credit reporting companies, or for someone who has language or health challenges. They may ask you for help.
The FTC has a resource for those situations: the Pro Bono Guide for Assisting Identity Theft Victims. It’s full of tools that make it easier for you to help clients even if you have limited professional experience with identity theft.
You may want to use the intake checklist as you collect information from the client, or refer to the statutes that relate to specific problems, or use the sample letters that are written from both the attorney and client perspectives.
I’d like to introduce you to a former colleague who has used the Guide.
Tina Smith Nelson:
I’m Tina Smith Nelson, Managing Attorney with AARP’s Legal Counsel for the Elderly. Legal Counsel for the Elderly is a civil legal services program. We represent low income individuals in the District of Columbia who are age 60 and older.
We represent clients in a myriad of civil legal services issues, including consumer debt cases.
In 2010, we began to use the FTC pro bono Guide when we discovered an increase in consumer debt cases.
The cases that we saw an increase in, included cases in which clients had new credit opened fraudulently in their names; clients who had incorrect information on their credit reports, including the wrong Social Security number; and clients who were dealing with the consequences of having family members steal their personal identification.
We have used this Guide effectively. Our attorneys have helped our clients file police reports, submit letters to credit reporting agencies, submit collection proof letters to creditors, and to get incorrect information removed from their credit reports.
The Guide has been such a useful tool to us at Legal Counsel for the Elderly. It has enabled us to get great results for our clients, and we intend to continue using it.
Until identity theft is a crime of the past, we hope you’ll use the Guide - and our consumer information - in your community.
Find out more at ftc.gov/idtheft.
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