California’s Identity Theft Act: A Tool to Protect Consumers after the Equifax Breach of 2017
Matthew M. Loker
Matthew is a Partner with the Kazerouni Law Group, APC and is located in San Luis Obispo, California. In practice, 100% of the cases handled by the Kazerouni Law Group, APC are consumer-related, ranging from defending consumers that have been sued by creditors or debt collectors to large multi-district class actions. A majority of Matthew’s practice focuses on the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, the Fair Credit Reporting Act, the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, California’s Identity Theft Act, false advertising claims, and environmental actions, such as the Santa Barbara Oil Spill.
Every two seconds, a consumer falls victim to identity theft. In fact, the White House recently acknowledged that identity theft is the fastest growing crime in America, resulting in the loss of $16 billion from 12.7 million U.S. consumers in 2014 alone. The trend continues, given the September 2017 Equifax hack that exposed an estimated 143 million American consumers to further identity theft. The question becomes, what can we do as attorneys to protect our clients from debt collectors that insist upon collecting fraudulent accounts from victims of identity theft.
As merely one example to set the stage, "FC" hired live-in caregivers after FC’s mother was diagnosed with a mental disability. Thereafter, one of the caregivers met a man online, who then moved into FC’s mother’s home. While living there, the man stole the mentally disabled woman’s identity and utilized said identity to purchase multiple vehicles, open numerous credit cards, and obtain student loans despite not even being a student. When FC discovered these issues, FC expended hours upon hours attempting to close the accounts. Despite FC’s pleas and compliance with all demands from the creditors, the creditors repeatedly said the mentally disabled woman was liable for the debts. After years of no success, FC was forced to retain the services of a law firm to force creditors to stop collecting the fraudulent debts from FC and to remove the debts from FC’s credit report. Through contentious litigation, FC finally won in court and successfully closed each of the fraudulent accounts.