Identity Theft in Erie, PA
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 Erie, Pennsylvania if your identity gets stolen.
Unfortunately, identity theft is on the rise in Pennsylvania. According to Federal Trade Commission data, there were 54,460 reports in 2021. However, only 568 of those reports came from the Erie area. Credit card theft is very common, as are fraudulent applications for government benefits or documents. In addition, PA Victim Services reports that there are many ways for a thief to obtain your information. For example, they may steal your mail or wallet, go through your trash, or hack into your computer.
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 Erie, PA 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 Erie, Pennsylvania?
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 Erie, Identity Theft Laws
Pennsylvania law defines identity theft as possessing or using the identifying information of another person for an unlawful purpose. In most cases, the seriousness of the crime is dependent on the amount of the theft. For example, cases involving under $2,000 are first degree misdemeanors, with a sentencing range of 2.5 to 5 years. However, anything involving $2,000 or more constitutes a felony, possibly resulting in up to 10 years in jail. In addition, some types of identity theft violate federal laws. For example, GoErie reports that an Erie federal grand jury recently indicted a man for using a false identity to steal nearly $100,000.
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 Erie, Pennsylvania?
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 Pennsylvania Attorney General provides resources for preventing identity theft. They also have resources available for victims, including affidavits, checklists, and contact logs. Furthermore, the PA Department of Revenue administers a Fraud Detection and Analysis Unit to help Erie taxpayers whose identities have been stolen. Regardless of the type of identity theft, it is imperative to involve local law enforcement. You can contact the Erie Police Department to file a report.
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 Erie 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 Erie, Pennsylvania
Are you facing financial or legal complications related to an identity theft issue in Erie, PA? 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 Pennsylvania 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!