The Virginian-Pilot recently reported two instances of credit fraud and identity theft here in Hampton Roads. In one instance, a woman left her purse in an unlocked car and had three of her credit cards stolen. The thief then racked up almost $14,000 in fraudulent charges. If it was just your card number, not the actual card that was stolen, you typically aren’t responsible for any of the charges. However, you should be aware that with most credit cards, you can be held responsible for up to $50 in fraudulent charges if the physical card is stolen and you don’t report it lost/stolen before someone uses it (see FCBA). Debit cards are a little different. You usually still have zero liability if you report it missing/stolen before anyone uses it, and up to $50 liability if you report it within two days. If you wait more than two days, you could be responsible for up to $500 of the fraudulent charges. If it’s your debit card you may not be able to recoup anything older than 60 days old - check your bank’s policy on fraud. Best practice, if you must leave your purse or wallet, make sure it is hidden out of sight and always lock the car.
In the other report, a New York man who owned property in Sandbridge tried to sell it last year, only to find out that it had already been sold! Someone in Florida had obtained false paperwork and social security numbers to impersonate him and fraudulently sell the property. The thief apparently never even came to Virginia, everything was carried out by phone and email. This resulted in a lengthy, expensive legal battle ($100,000 in legal fees) before the rightful owner was able to reclaim his property. The people who purchased the property lost out too. While federal officials are investigating, they say it’s unlikely that they will find the scammer.
As always, keep a close eye on all of your financial accounts and investments and protect your personal information. If you find that you are the victim of identity theft or credit fraud, you may need an experienced lawyer to help you set things right. Feel free to call us, we would be happy to assist you.