The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) outlines specific protections consumers are entitled to when it comes to information collected by credit bureaus, tenant screening services, and other consumer reporting agencies. One of these protections is the requirement that financial institutions and creditors take steps to guard against customer identity theft.

Unfortunately, banks and creditors don’t always abide by these requirements. If a bank or similar institution fails to protect you to the extent it should, you may find yourself the victim of identity theft, and your credit report may give an inaccurate impression of your credit history as a result. In such a situation, you may be entitled to compensation for your losses through an FCRA identity theft lawsuit. At Lehrman Law, a Florida consumer protection attorney can review your case and explain your legal options. Contact us today to learn more.

FCRA Rules for Detecting, Preventing, and Mitigating Identity Theft

The FCRA requires the financial institutions and creditors within its purview to take certain steps to detect, guard against, and mitigate consumer identity theft. These requirements apply when financial institutions and creditors offer “covered accounts.” Examples of such accounts include:

  • Checking accounts
  • Savings accounts
  • Credit cards
  • Mortgage loans
  • Auto loans
  • Mobile phone accounts
  • Utility accounts

One of the FCRA’s requirements is that financial institutions and creditors must regularly determine whether they offer any covered accounts. They must also perform risk assessments to ensure they’re protecting the customers to whom they offer these types of accounts.

Any financial institution or creditor offering or maintaining a covered account must establish a written Identity Theft Prevention Program. Required elements of these programs include:

  • Identifying “red flags” relating to identity theft concerns and covered accounts
  • Establishing a means of detecting red flags when they arise
  • Establishing procedures for responding to red flags

An Identity Theft Prevention Program may also require periodic updates. As risks to consumer safety change, identity theft prevention methods should change as well.

To implement an Identity Theft Prevention Program, a financial institution or creditor must:

  • Draft a written program
  • Get the company’s board of directors or a similar committee to approve the program
  • Involve either the board of directors or a qualified senior-level employee in the implementation of the program
  • Train staff to implement the program
  • Maintain oversight of the program and general service provider arrangements

FCRA Rules Applying to Card Issuers and Changes of Address

The FCRA also establishes requirements that apply when credit card or debit card issuers receive notification that customers have changed their addresses. These requirements include:

  • Establishing methods of evaluating the validity of address changes when the card issuer receives notification that a customer has changed their address, followed by notification within 30 days that the customer has requested a new card
  • Alerting customers about the above requests to confirm their validity before issuing new cards
  • Evaluating the validity of such requests in accordance with FCRA standards if a card issuer is unable to confirm the validity of a change of address directly with the customer

Common Signs of Identity Theft That May Justify an FCRA Lawsuit

Keeping an eye out for some common warning signs of identity theft can help you protect your identity and your finances. Red flags to watch for include:

  • Changes to your financial accounts
  • Being turned down for credit unfairly, which may also be due to reporting errors
  • Not receiving mail from financial institutions despite receiving it previously, which could indicate an erroneous change of address
  • Any inaccurate information on a credit report
  • Calls or other alerts asking to confirm purchases you didn’t make
  • “Suspicious activity” alerts from financial institutions
  • Receiving bills for unfamiliar expenses (such as unfamiliar medical bills)
  • Surprising changes (usually drops) in your credit score
  • Unexpected “hard” credit inquiries

Never ignore any of these warning signs. Contact the relevant financial institution and, if necessary, request that they freeze the affected accounts to prevent further losses.

Filing an FCRA Identity Theft Lawsuit

If you believe your credit information has been erroneously reported as a result of identity theft, you may have grounds to take legal action. Before doing so, you must dispute the alleged false reporting with the relevant credit reporting agency (for example, Equifax, Experian, or TransUnion). An attorney can help you through this process by gathering evidence supporting your claim of identity theft and outlining inaccuracies in your credit report.

The credit reporting agency should then provide information about the dispute to the applicable financial institution offering the account affected by the identity theft. The institution must conduct a reasonably thorough investigation to confirm the accuracy of the information under dispute.

If the financial institution finds the information is accurate, it may not have to take any further action. If it finds the information is inaccurate, the financial institution must modify, delete, or otherwise change the information accordingly.

Unfortunately, there is no universal standard regarding what qualifies as a thorough investigation under the FCRA. Thus, even after completing its investigation of a dispute, a financial institution might fail to correct an inaccurate report. In this situation, an attorney can help you file a lawsuit alleging a violation of the FCRA. Doing so may result in the correction of your credit report and the recovery of financial compensation for money you lost through identity theft. 

The Deadline for Filing an FCRA Identity Theft Lawsuit

You must file any FCRA identity theft lawsuit within two years of discovering the FCRA violation. However, there is also a statute of repose, which requires you to file a lawsuit within five years of the violation occurring. This means, for example, that if you detected a violation six years after it occurred, you won’t be able to file a lawsuit.

Contact an FCRA Identity Theft Lawsuit Lawyer

FCRA identity theft cases can be extremely complex. To prove a violation occurred, you may need to request and review internal documents and other such information from a financial institution. An attorney who understands the relevant law and has experience handling FCRA identity theft lawsuits can help. Contact Lehrman Law today for a free consultation to learn more about how a Florida consumer protection attorney can assist you.