Identity Theft in Montana
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 Montana if your identity gets stolen.
Like most states, Montana has experienced a surge in identity theft. According to the Insurance Information Institute, Montana ranked 32nd in the country for identity theft, with 2,439 cases reported in 2020. This is up from 43rd in 2019 with 707 identity theft reports. However, the incidence of identity theft in Montana may be understated. Specifically, the Montana Board of Crime Control reported that only 23.4% of identity theft victims reported the crime to the police.
What Is Identity Theft?
Identity theft is one of the most common crimes in the modern world. 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.
Even before you become aware of any theft, thieves may have already used your identity to open new financial accounts without your knowledge. Other criminal actions include faking tax returns, fraudulent purchases, and receiving or stealing medical care under your insurance. While dealing with customer service departments for a solution, a qualified Montana attorney can fast-track the process. In some circumstances, taking the step of seeking legal help is necessary to get the attention of companies and recover your losses.
How Does Identity Theft Happen in Montana?
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 and 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. You should always 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.
- 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 that would normally be 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 Identity Theft Laws?
Criminal penalties for identity theft in Montana generally depend on how much economic benefit was gained by the perpetrator. Under Montana Code, if a person is convicted of identity theft and gained or attempted to gain less than $1,500, the maximum fine is $500 They may also face up to six months in county jail. However, if the perpetrator gained or attempted to gain $5,000 or more, they can be fined up to $10,000. As well, they can face up to 10 years in state prison.
How Can I Detect Identity Theft?
Sometimes it can be difficult to tell 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 Montana?
The first thing you can do is immediately contact your financial institutions and suspend any compromised cards. Some companies also allow you to block any further usage directly from their app.
The next step would be to contact the institutions where you have discrepancies. If you see suspicious transactions, reach out to the places or services where they occurred. Additionally, close any accounts or cancel any subscriptions that may have become compromised.
Montana’s Attorney General (MAG) outlines steps you should take if you are a victim of identity theft. First, start by filing a report with your local law enforcement agency and the FTC, and contacting the three major credit bureaus. Next, complete Montana’s Identity Theft Passport and return it to the law enforcement agency. MAG also recommends requesting a copy of your FBI and Montana criminal history record to make sure crimes were not committed in your name. It is also advisable to notify all financial institutions to change your accounts and passwords.
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. An experienced Montana attorney can also help you right some of the wrongs you encounter along the way.
Identity Theft Protections
Always take proactive steps to protect yourself from identity theft. To many, 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 Montana
Are you facing financial or legal complications related to an identity theft issue in Montana? 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 Montana 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!