Identity Theft in Buffalo, NY
The repercussions of identity theft can range from embarrassment to serious legal and financial injury. Assess your risk, safeguard your identity, and hire an attorney in Buffalo, New York if your identity gets stolen.
Federal Trade Commission data shows that New York residents made over 100,000 reports of identity theft in 2021. In addition, over 6,000 of those reports came from the Buffalo metro area. According to WGRZ News, this continues a trend of increasing rates of this crime since 2019. The majority of Buffalo identity theft reports involve credit card theft. However, cases involving fraudulent applications for government documents and benefits rose sharply during the COVID-19 pandemic.
What Is Identity Theft?
Identity theft is one of the most common crimes in the modern world, and criminals are constantly finding new ways to steal your information. These crimes involve the fraudulent use of components of your identity, such as SSNs, driver’s licenses, or credit cards.
Thieves may have already used your identity to open new financial accounts without your knowledge. Other criminal actions can include fake tax returns, fraudulent purchases, and receiving medical care under your insurance. While dealing with customer service departments for a solution, an experienced Buffalo, NY attorney can fast-track the process. In some circumstances, taking this step is necessary to get the attention of companies and recover your losses.
How Does Identity Theft Happen in Buffalo, New York?
Identity theft can happen in many ways. Hackers are constantly advancing their data-stealing techniques. However, there are some long-standing causes of identity theft that every consumer should be aware of:
- Data Breaches – Companies often store personal financial information for subscriptions, auto-pay, or express checkout. Hackers can break into these companies’ servers to extract the personal information of thousands of people at a time.
- ATM or Card Skimmers – Hackers can place devices called skimmers that read your card’s information when you use it. The most common places for skimmers to are in ATM devices or at gas pumps. Some have even found their way into convenience stores and pharmacies.
- Digital Malware and Viruses – Hackers can access your information through phishing, fake websites, and file-sharing networks. Be vigilant when receiving emails from questionable accounts or when browsing online. Often, hackers will disguise their phishing attempts as recognizable brands or platforms.
- Physical Theft – Thieves can access your personal information by stealing your mail, purse, or wallet. It’s critical to keep your personal belongings secure and shred confidential information before throwing it out.
- Change Of Address – Another creative way hackers can steal your information is by changing your address with different services you use. Once the mail reroutes to the new address, they can access the information you normally get sent to your real address.
- Public WiFi – While public WiFi networks are convenient, they rarely encrypt the connection. Most competent hackers can break into public networks and remotely access devices connected to them. Only use public WiFi networks if absolutely necessary, and always with a VPN.
What Are Some Buffalo, Identity Theft Laws
New York fraud laws define identity theft as using someone else’s identity in an attempt to obtain goods, money, property, services, or credit. The base crime is a class A misdemeanor, with a penalty of up to 1 year in jail and a $1,000 fine. However, if the crime involves more than $500, it becomes a felony. Depending on the amount stolen, the sentence can include up to 7 years in prison. Furthermore, if the victim is in the military, aggravated charges may apply. In some cases, identity theft can also violate federal laws. For example, the U.S. Department of Justice recently sent a Buffalo man to prison for 8 years on an identity theft charge.
How Can I Detect Identity Theft?
Sometimes it can be hard to know if your identity has become compromised. However, if you are vigilant with your passwords and online presence, you can become aware of several signs that point to identity theft. Be on the lookout for the following:
- Any questionable activity you don’t recognize regarding your existing accounts
- Deposits, purchases, credit alerts, etc.
- No longer receiving mail at your primary address
- Calls or letters from debt collectors about debts you never personally incurred
- Unfamiliar charges on your accounts or new accounts you never opened
- Bills for services you never received, such as medical care
- Letter from the IRS regarding duplicate tax returns in your name
- News from a company you have done business about a data breach
- A sudden and unexplained drop or increase in your credit score
How Do I Recover From Identity Fraud in Buffalo, New York?
The first thing you can do is immediately contact your financial institutions and suspend any compromised cards. Some companies will also allow you to block any further usage directly from their app.
The next step is to contact the institutions where you have discrepancies. If you see suspicious transactions, reach out to the places or services where they occurred. Additionally, you should close any accounts or cancel any subscriptions that may have become compromised.
The New York Attorney General publishes a pamphlet on how to prevent identity theft. In addition, they provide resources for those who are already victims. They recommend contacting the Federal Trade Commission, as well as your local police department. Fortunately, the Buffalo Police Department can take your report online. For even more information on identity theft, the Office of the New York State Comptroller offers a comprehensive overview on their website.
You should also consider a credit monitoring account if you don’t already have one. These services provide oversight on your credit accounts and alert you when there is suspicious activity. You can either temporarily freeze the account or close it out entirely. A qualified Buffalo attorney can also help you right some of the wrongs you may encounter along the way.
Identity Theft Protections
Take proactive steps to protect yourself from identity theft. Some of these steps may seem like common sense. However, it’s surprising how often people disclose personal information without a second thought. We recommend you take the following precautions to avoid someone stealing your identity:
- Do not respond to any unsolicited requests asking for personal information.
- Do not click any suspicious links in unsolicited emails.
- Enable all security and two-step verification protocols on your electronic devices.
- Use complex passwords and change them frequently.
- Install any firewall and malware detection software on your electronic devices.
- Properly shred or tear up any documents with personal or financial information before discarding them in the trash.
Work with an Experienced Local Lawyer in Buffalo, New York
Are you facing financial or legal complications related to an identity theft issue in Buffalo, NY? If that’s the case, we can help connect you with the right attorney to help you resolve these problems before they spiral out of control. We can even help you connect with an attorney across New York state lines.
Submit a request online or call us today at (866) 345-6784 to get in touch with an experienced lawyer in your area!