What You Don’t Know About Identity Theft

Identity Theft Starts in the Home

Identity Theft is not just someone opening a credit card in your name, though that still happens all the time. 

No, it’s more likely to happen when you have to move back in with your dad and while you’re at work, your step-mom puts all the utilities in your name and then doesn’t pay them for several months.

Perhaps your brother or sister gets pulled over for DUI and gives the arresting officer your old Driver’s License, the one that went missing and you thought you lost it, and then guess what, she or he looks so much like you the police are fooled into thinking it really is you. Be careful making those rolling right turns from now on. 

When your sibling and her spouse realtor who moved in with you because they were broke, but somehow they and their friend the Notary Public suddenly come into money and you can’t figure out how? Stay home sick from work for a few days near the end or beginning of the month AND make sure that you are the one who gets all the mail from your mail box. You might find out you have a new second mortgage. Surprise!

Perhaps the most important thing you can do to protect yourself is to know how to spot when a person is less than truthful. Most of the time we get into trouble because we know something is wrong and choose not to confront the person who is trying to pull the wool over our eyes because we love them, so we decide to trust them. Don’t be complicit in your own demise.

I knew a man who awoke one day to find out that he didn’t own his own home anymore. Turns out there had been a “For Sale” sign hanging on the Zillow.com website over his head for months. I know these sound preposterous in the extreme but guess what, I’ve seen both happen.

It can also be done basically as a con-game. The con-artist induces you to give them money, but since you don’t have enough cash, so you end up using your own good credit to do it. Of course, the con-artist never pays you back. That’s not even the worst part of it, the con-artist may not even know that the con-artist is a con-artist. He probably tells himself he’s going to pay your back, or maybe she is just down on her luck and you’re the only contact they know, so you’re the only mark. You just happen to be the “rich uncle” in the family but unfortunately, you are cash poor, you’re broke. Just not as broke as they are . . . at least not until they get done with you.

When you’re helping family, and suddenly you find your daughter-in-law has a new Camaro, expensive tattoos, long red hair, and a penchant for sushi but a budget for fish fingers, crayons and an old Dodge Rambler, it’s time to check your own credit.

How did she possibly pay for the make-over when your son tells you that they’re saving up, because they want to buy a home of their own. Somehow she’s got this wonderful make-over? Eventually, you’re going to find out that your good credit also has a wonderful make-over, or perhaps a make-under. . . . 

Identity Theft Comes From Friends Too

Cosigning for a new car for a friend or family member is often a mistake. Especially when they then don’t or won’t pay the monthly payment on the car loan and leave you holding the bag. 

Again I’ve seen this happen more than a few times. You cosign for the car, (or worse, you just buy one) for your “Bestie” who then doesn’t pay for it and in fact disappears with it. 

When your “Bestie’s” bank sues you, they’re going to sue you for the whole balance, you won’t even get the benefit of the repossession reducing the balance that you owe because of course, the car has vanished. 

Not only does the bank sue you, they may also report you to the police as having stolen the car or for being an accomplice to the theft. I mean, that probably won’t stick, but you won’t really know until you talk to the Public Defender who gets assigned to your case. You might not even be arrested at all depending on a lot of actors that you have no control over.

If you’re lucky they’ll just garnish your wages until you file a bankruptcy, and even worse, you can’t just claim it was a case of Identity Theft because you signed the loan. Therefore, yes, you do have to file a bankruptcy to get out of it.

Beware of Fake Collection Calls 

Sometimes people are just flat out not who they say they are. You think he’s your savior and he turns out to be just another guy who likes meditation and yoga. 

Sometimes your credit might be destroyed by your boyfriend or girlfriend who memorized your credit card numbers. After you closed the accounts she or he then called the credit card companies posing as your husband or wife and asked that the accounts be reopened. Yes, I’ve seen this happen too. 

But nowadays most of the time, it’s a phone call. Someone calls who knows everything about you, your current unlisted number, your current address and you’re not even on the lease, and he knows your addresses for the last fifteen (15) years. He wants you to pay for an account of a credit card he says you still owe from 2004; even though you haven’t paid on it since 2005 and you filed a bankruptcy in 2007 listing that card. For some reason he’s now threatening to sue you, or send a 1099 to the IRS or to blow your security clearance with your command.

Can he do all that? Of course not. The bankruptcy took care of it. If you didn’t file bankruptcy, then the Statute of Limitations took care of it, unless the card in fact sued you. But if he’s not saying the card did sue you and obtain a court judgment, but that what he wants to do is to send a 1099 to the IRS, then there is no judgment.

Because if they had a judgment, you won’t get a phone call, you’ll just pick up your check and find out that a fourth of it is missing. For some reason he won’t give you the company’s address, and the company name is a mashup of two legitimate debt collection agencies you find on the Internet. It’s crap, he’s a liar and he’s trying to commit fraud and you’re the mark. Hang up and block the number. 

My favorites are the fake IRS calls. The IRS doesn’t call you to ask you to pay up. They’ll send you letters telling you to call in or they’ll put a lien on your house. They’ll write to you to tell you to call in or they’ll garnish your wages. They’ll write to you to tell you to call in. But if the IRS tells you anything like that, it will come to you in a SNAIL MAIL LETTER. THEY DO NOT CALL YOU ON THE PHONE TO ASK FOR YOUR BANK ACCOUNT NUMBERS OR YOUR CREDIT OR DEBIT CARD NUMBERS, EVER.

My second favorite are fake calls from creditors several years after bankruptcy using information from your bankruptcy to make you feel like it’s a real account and who are asking you to pay an account which was included in your bankruptcy and saying that it wasn’t included in your bankruptcy. Call your bankruptcy attorney if you’re not sure. If you signed a reaffirmation agreement they might be right that you owe the money, but if that’s the case, then it will be easy to prove that a legitimate collection agency actually does exist and where they’re located. 

Did a creditor sue you in your bankruptcy case and win a judgment against you stating that your debt to that creditor was not going to be included in your bankruptcy discharge order? If that’s the case, then finding out who the collection agency is will be easy and quick or you’ll just wake up and find out your bank account is empty.

Fake calls come from untraceable numbers through Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) phone lines and you’re never going to figure out who called or from where. Tell them to leave you alone and hang up, that particular scammer will probably never call back. 

The famous Nairobi email scam and various permutations of it are still going on all the time. I actually had a client who got caught by that one once but at least he got a car out of it, and ruined credit too. 

Social Media Hacking is Identity Theft

Have you had it happen to you yet?

This week I received a new friend request from a current friend. I sent him a messenger message and asked why he had sent me a friend request, Did you unfriend me? He said no he hadn’t unfriended me nor had he sent the new friend request.

It’s about the same thing as reaching for the sugar and finding poison. I drew that cartoon as an homage to Orwell’s 1984 in about 1985 . . or 83 or at least I know that Pat Benatar was the greatest woman in Rock ever.

I searched for my friend’s name in the search bar at the top of the Facebook page and found that not only was I still friends with the same guy but also he had this new profile using his same profile picture and his name spelled identically down to the middle initial and the new profile had sent me the other friend request. This new version of my friend was already friends with 18 of his current friends from his original profile!!!

It’s truly horrifying. Those 18 friends will shortly all be victims of some sort of scam, though most will figure it out. But unless he contacts them all directly right away to say it wasn’t him, one of them might get scammed first. Thankfully you can contact Facebook directly and tell them, “hey that’s not me but someone is pretending to be me.” In my case, I contacted them to say that it wasn’t him but someone pretending to be him.

I once received a Messenger message from a scammer who said that he was on vacation in London and had been robbed and lost his passport and all his money and credit cards and could I send him $817 to pay for a new plane ticket home? At first, I was checking my credit cards to see if I had one I could use to buy him a plane ticket, but he wanted the money wired instead.

So, I thought about it and realized that if this person were truly in London and lost his money and passport then why and how was he messaging me? Surely he has friends with more money than I, and closer friends too, (I hadn’t spoken with him in years) and friends who could almost certainly access his accounts at home, but . . .

Hey, why can’t he get into his own accounts anyway? That didn’t make sense. Just telephone your bank and go through all the security questions and then they’ll tell you where to go to get a new debit card even though you’re in London.

Someone Starts a Business in Your Name?

Has this happened to you? I’ve seen it over and over again. Your dad, mom, brother, sister, cousin, uncle, best friend, wants to start a business but can’t do it in their own name because of the IRS, the Mafia, a biker gang, bad credit, an ex-wife, or ex-husband will put a stop to it and take all their money.

So, your name goes on all the paperwork.

If you’re lucky, you’ll actually get the percentage that they promise you for using your good name to operate their nefarious enterprise.

If you’re really lucky they aren’t doing something that lands you in jail but just ruins your credit.

Either, eventually, the business makes a lot of money but for some reason you never get any and then one day they’re gone and so is all the cash and all the easily movable equipment with any value and you’re left holding the bag.

Option two, eventually the business just flounders and sputters out because they weren’t very good at whatever the business was supposed to be doing in the first place, and that was why they put it in your name all along.

Thanks, next time, go ruin your own credit and leave me alone. This one is especially hard because you think you’re helping out someone you love or trust and they take advantage of you while you let them. If the business is so great, tell them to put the business in their own damn name.

You Thought you had Great Credit

Now your house is gone, your car is gone, your woman or your man is gone. And you realize that you hadn’t paid enough attention to your financial circumstances, and your credit. 

Basically, as it turns out, because someone else turned out to not be who they said they were, you’re no longer who you thought you were either. 

Everyone nowadays, before a first date, has perused all the social media available to make sure that the new person isn’t unemployed, an alcoholic, or has a girlfriend, boyfriend, wife, husband or likes cats but hates dogs or vice versa. Back in the day, before Facebook and all the rest, a nice man asked a wonderful woman to marry him. Well, before she would answer, she drove down to the Family Courthouse and looked up his divorce file. Turns out he had been an abusive husband who was also a deadbeat on his support payments to his little children who live with the ex-wife in Altoona. He had given her a nice TV for Christmas, and when she broke up with him, he took it back while his children sat and cried on the floor in front of him.

Driving to the Family Courthouse is still a good idea of course because most of the stuff in a divorce case file won’t be online. You can look up who sued you and usually find a copy of the summons and complaint but not in a divorce case, so the drive to the court  house is still a good idea.

However, before the second or third date you could nowadays just ask to look at Credit Karma on his or her phone. My Wells Fargo account on my phone will give me my credit score.

Don’t forget to also protect yourself by having an Identity Theft plan in place such as through Lifelock. 

How Do You Recover From Identity Theft

Pretty much the same way you do from any kind of bad credit, you go to work repairing and fixing your credit reports. The disputes are still required they just have a different message: “It wasn’t me.”

Credit repair requires effort on your part, but it’s not hard, and if you do it right, it’s effective and can shoot your scores right back up to where they are supposed to be. Affordable price, and your own effort is free. But I don’t know how, yes you might say so, but this guide tells you exactly how.

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The Attorney’s Guide to Credit Repair, download it now and get started. It’s fast, affordable and guaranteed.

What you need to know before you decide to sell, refinance or file bankruptcy

Have you ever found out your home had a lot of equity? If you’re like me and everyone else in the world, you thought that if you could just refinance and pay off the credit cards, that would fix everything. 

Maybe it would. It might help a ton in fact. But it would depend on how much equity was in your home. How much equity we’re talking about. Let’s say for example that Tarzan and Jane owe $30,000 in credit cards and own a home worth $450,000. They each make $40,000 per year. They have two children, bad credit and their monthly credit card payments add up to $1050 per month.

Upside Down or No Equity

If their house is upside or has no equity, they might just file a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy and be done with the credit card debt. As a married couple with a family of four and eighty thousand per year in income, they would qualify for a chapter 7 bankruptcy in California and wouldn’t lose the house to the Bankruptcy Trustee assigned to administer their bankruptcy case. Bankruptcy Trustees are only interested in equity that they can actually impound, in their case, there is little or no equity at all.

The only risk is that Tarzan and Jane are paying for a house with a loan of over, or equal to $450,000. That’s a big loan with a big payment. They should probably fix up their place as much as possible, do it fast, and sell it to buy a house they can afford. Their payment on $450,000 is probably $2700/mo depending on the Homeowner’s Association Dues and Escrow Impounds and whether they have had the loan modified or not. So, they could file bankruptcy, get out of the credit card debt and if they can budget really well, they might stay in the house or sell it or even short sell it and find a rent that they can better afford.

Small Amount of Equity in the Home

See above but now the short sale is off the table so that at least when they sold, if they did, then they wouldn’t have a bankruptcy plus a short sale on their credit and that’s good for everyone. It also means they have a lower balance on their mortgage and that means maybe they should stay, at least they’re on the positive side and their payment is likely lower than in the first example supra.

Significant Equity in the Home

Of course this is where I wanted to get to in the first place. Now there are some real decisions to be made and not all of them are rosy. Let’s assume there’s $140,000 in equity, so that on the $450,000 house they only owe a mortgage with a balance of $310,000.

At least, at $310,000 in mortgage debt, Tarzan and Jane probably have a mortgage they can afford of something in the neighborhood of $2000 per month depending on impounds and etc. For a family of four, that’s comparable to what rents would probably be if they moved. So they wouldn’t want to move because the equity and the affordable house payment.

So what are the options?

a) Just Keep Paying Your Credit Card Payments

The average monthly credit card payments are probably about $1050 per month or even more if they just continue paying them. It will take a long time to pay them all off if Tarzan and Jane are only paying the minimum monthly payments. In the end they will have paid off nearly $100,000 because of all the interest. So this is not a good plan. 

b) Sell Their Home and Buy Another

This is a terrible option for obvious reasons outlined above, there’s plenty of equity and an affordable payment. Selling in order to pay off credit cards is a terrible idea. Besides where would they go? They would have cash but bad credit and a decent income. That and a couple dollars will get you a cup of coffee but not another house.

c) Chapter 7 Bankruptcy

I like chapter 7 bankruptcy more than chapter 13 in most cases, but not this one. Tarzan and Jane are too young and healthy. Chapter 7 is the Straight Bankruptcy or also called a Liquidation Bankruptcy where you’re in and out again in about four (4) months, however, the Trustee’s job in a Chapter 7 is to collect assets from you, liquidate them and pay them to your creditors. Tarzan and Jane have $140,000 in equity, but in California they can protect only $100,000 in equity in their home at best. Have a look at Calif. Code Civ. Pro. 704.730.

Certainly, if one of them were permanently disabled, on social security, or had a letter from the VA so stating then they would be good to go. In that case they could protect up to $175,000 of home equity in a chapter 7 bankruptcy, in California. (See Link above). Even if no one has stated that they are totally  and permanently disabled or close to it, and if one of them cannot participate in gainful employment, then they should go to the doctor and get one or two of them to sign off on it. Or if either were over sixty-five (65) years old, then that works too, and they could protect up to $175,000 in home equity. 

There’s another option for people over fifty-five (55) and low income, (but that one hardly ever works). If Tarzan and Jane could protect more equity than they actually have, then they could file a chapter 7 bankruptcy and keep the house no problem and since $175,000 is greater than $140,000 in equity, they could file a Chapter 7. Unfortunately . . . 

Turns out that we’ve already decided that Tarzan and Jane have two munchkins still at home. Tarzan and Jane are probably young-ish and they are not disabled since both are working and making $40,000 each. So the disabled protection for home equity is not going to work for them and the low income over fifty-five (55) is not going to work either. So they can protect only $100,000 of the equity or $40,000 less than the equity that they have.

In a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy the Trustee would sell their home and give them a check for $100,000. But where can they move with only $100,000 and bad credit? I think we may have seen this movie before. But with a bankruptcy too?  That’s even worse.

Perhaps one might think that the Trustee couldn’t obtain enough money from the sale of the home to cover the costs of sale, and while it may be close to true, Chapter 7 Trustees have other things up their sleeves. Realtors will sometimes reduce their fees. Even more importantly, sometimes the mortgage lender will take a reduction in pay off as well. Because a bankruptcy trustee does not need to be able to collect very much in order to go through with taking a home and selling it, in this case he or she probably would. It gets even worse. During the time that Tarzan and Jane’s bankruptcy were to be pending, and before the home sale were complete, if the value of the house went up and the bankruptcy trustee could take advantage of it, then the bankruptcy trustee gets the additional appreciation, not Tarzan and Jane.

So if you don’t mind the Chapter 7 Trustee selling your house for you then maybe a Chapter 7 is for you. But I don’t recommend it, not in Tarzan and Jane’s case.

d) Chapter 13 Bankruptcy

A Chapter 13 Bankruptcy gives a type of protection that a chapter 7 does not. Remember that in a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy the Trustee’s job is to take things away, sell them and pay creditors. In a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy, the Trustee takes monthly payments from Tarzan and Jane only. They would get to keep their home.

In this case, it would work like this, the home equity that Tarzan and Jane can protect is $100,000 but the total equity is $140,000 leaving $40,000 not protected. The $40,000 which is not protected is greater than the $30,000 that Tarzan and Jane owe in credit cards, therefore, Tarzan and Jane must pay 100% of that $30,000 in credit cards into the payment plan for up to five (5) years.

At least the payment plan would require little or no interest. It would require a Chapter 13 bankruptcy payment plan payment of about $625 per month in Southern California. This is almost certainly a much better cash flow than just paying the credit cards directly by about half or so. Remember that they were paying $1050 per month on credit card bills before?

It’s not a bad monthly payment really. If you need a Chapter 7 or a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy in Southern California including San Diego, LA, Orange and Riverside Counties, call me 951-200-3613. 

e) Debt Consolidation Plans

There are three main types of debt consolidations: The First is the Chapter 13 Bankruptcy discussed above. The second collects payments  from Tarzan and Jane and negotiates with the credit card companies. They form agreements with creditors to reduce payments by obtaining lower interest rates and on rare occasions also reductions in principal as well. The payment would be about what a Chapter 13 payment would be. 

The third type collects regular payments from Tarzan and Jane but lets their credit cards go unpaid for a while until those debts are sent to collection agencies and then the consolidator settles the debts with the collection agents for a one time payment for less than the full balance. This is also called Settling the Debts or Debt Settlement.

Often they work out great. Other times, not so much. Sometimes what happens is you place your five (5) or ten (10) accounts, including credit cards, small loans, medical bills etc that you owe on the table in front of him, and if he’s been doing debt consolidation work long enough, he must immediately know which ones will play ball with him and which won’t. However, what he won’t do, is tell you which ones won’t work with him. Think about it, if there were one or two that wouldn’t work with him and he told  you, you would call me instead. 

Next thing Tarzan and Jane know, one of their credit cards has sued them. If the attorney who sued them was unscrupulous, as collectors sometimes can be, then Tarzan and Jane might not even know that it has happened until they find out that their wages are being garnished. Wage Garnishments can take up to 25% of a normal paycheck. Or they might find out because their bank account has been emptied by the sheriff via bank levy.

f) Refinance or Second Mortgage or Home Equity Line of Credit

But how do Tarzan and Jane take a loan against their home when they have bad credit? Even if they have enough equity in the house to borrow enough to pay off the $30,000 in credit cards, who will lend to them? 

It’s not a question of WHO but WHEN will they lend to you? Credit Repair is what you need.

Did you know that you can repair your credit yourself? It’s easy too. You just need to know how. If you could raise your credit score enough, then you could refinance your mortgage, obtain a second mortgage or qualify for a home equity line of credit.

A second mortgage would give a much better cash flow than a chapter 13 bankruptcy would by at least half. The second mortgage payment might be only about $325 per month. So, from a payment of about $1050 per month, down to about $325 per month. That’s a huge improvement and all you have to do is follow the Guide and it’s real simple.

Of course, yes, I do get paid a small commission when you buy the guide, and of course, yes, you should buy it. 

So how do you repair your credit? Click Here for the Attorney’s Guide to Credit Repair.. It’s fast, easy and guaranteed by Attorney Robert Shapiro who wrote the Guide. If your credit is bad, you can make it good. If your credit is good, you can make it better.