Identity theft is on the increase in Philadelphia and across the nation. We read recently of an ID theft victim who has not only had to spend much time and energy undoing the damage of the original crime, but is now also having to contend with an abusive debt collector.
The story begins with a bank issuing a credit card in the victim's name to a thief in Florida. The thief then rang up bills, of course. When the credit account went delinquent, the credit card company turned it over to a collection agency who is now zeroing in on the ID theft victim.
The ID theft victim wrote a letter to a consumer advocate columnist, relaying the story of how the collection agency is now demanding personal information such as their Social Security number and driver's license. The victim had already supplied the collector with a police report and utility bill as proof of residence when the crime occurred.
The victim asked, "Is there no end to this?" The columnist replied that the burden of proof of debt rests with the collector, not the ID theft victim.
The collector is required by law to provide a validation notice in writing with a detailed description of the debt, including the amount and the name of the creditor.
Once the ID theft victim receives that notice, they can write back and state that they did not incur or authorize the debt and include with their letter a copy of the police report. The columnist also urges the victim to get their letter notarized and to send it by certified mail.
Lastly, tell the collector to stop pursuit of the debt, the columnist advises.
We would add that if harassment continues in matters like this one, it can make sense to speak with a Philadelphia consumer protection attorney experienced in stopping abusive debt collection.