In this day and age in which information is shared quickly, easily, and often unwittingly, anyone with a credit card could fall victim to fraud. Sometimes, a credit card fraud attorney might be the best bet to help you in recouping the losses incurred in a case of stolen identity.
What Is Credit Card Fraud?
Credit card fraud occurs when a credit card number is used without the knowledge or permission of the owner. It is considered a type of identity theft, since the credit card belongs only to one person and that person's "identity" must be used to make purchases with the card. The physical card does not always need to be present for this type of fraud to occur.
How a Credit Card Fraud Attorney Can Help
A credit card fraud attorney helps you resolve the dispute over your credit usage. Specifically, they:
- Assess the specifics of your case to uncover facts that benefit you and show that you did not make the charges in dispute
- Help you contact the credit card company and credit reporting agencies to resolve any and all issues arising from the fraud
- Ensure that you are held responsible for as little amount of - or none - of the charges made fraudulently on your card
- Defend you in court if you have been brought up on criminal charges for actions related to credit card fraud. This may result in reduced penalties
- Ensure that debt collectors and other involved parties abide by the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act
The attorney might also be able to assist you in filing a lawsuit against the individual responsible for the fraud. This would not be the credit card company, but rather the actual person who used your credit card or enabled another person to use your credit card without authorization.
Of course, this requires that the person have been identified at some point during the fraud investigation process. In this case, you would sue the responsible party for damages resulting from the time and energy you spent in resolving the fraud. This could include legal fees and lost wages.
When You Need a Credit Card Fraud Attorney
Not all occurrences of credit card fraud require hiring an attorney. Fraud that is caught quickly -meaning that there was not a high amount of charges made to your card- and early is usually resolvable by a cardholder working with the credit card company. Most times, the company investigates the charges that the holder disputes and when those charges are found to be unusual, reimburses the cardholder in the form of a balance credit. Other times, when the company finds the cardholder innocent, it will reissue a new card with a new number, shutting down the old card so that it cannot be used again.
According to the Florida Attorney General's office cardholders have no more legal responsibility for unauthorized charges once the fraud or theft is reported to the card issuing company. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act prohibits collection agencies from harassing individuals who have been the victim of credit card fraud.
However, not all credit card fraud is easily resolved. Sometimes, the extent and type of fraud may warrant hiring an attorney. These circumstances include:
- A credit card company denying your claim that fraud occurred and holding you responsible for all charges to your card
- A credit reporting agency refusing to remove fraudulent credit card use information from your credit report
- A credit card company denying your request to place a fraud alert or other notification on your card, thereby leaving you responsible for all charges made to your card
- Being unable to resolve the fraudulent claims on your own, despite your card issuer agreeing with you that fraud occurred
- Being harassed by creditors despite having initiated a fraud alert and investigation, in violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act
Unfortunately, sometimes a credit card attorney's involvement is the only way to obtain true resolution - meaning a conclusion to the fraud investigation that does not damage your credit or hold you responsible for charges you didn't make - in circumstances of credit card fraud.
Tips on Hiring a Fraud Attorney
Numerous attorneys throughout the nation specialize or practice in credit card fraud. However, not every attorney is right for your case.
Hiring a credit card fraud attorney involves the same process as hiring any other type of attorney. When hiring an attorney to assist you, Forbes.com recommends considering:
- The size of the firm: Solo practitioners might have fewer resources available to them, but more time to dedicate to your case; the exact opposite is true of attorneys practicing at large firms. Additionally, your case might be farmed out to a less experienced junior attorney at a large firm.
- The attorney's experience: Inquire into the number of credit card fraud cases an attorney has handled and how many of those cases were successfully resolved. The higher these numbers, the more likely it is that the attorney will be comfortable with and successful in handling your case.
- The attorney's fee structure: Make sure you understand exactly how and when then attorney gets paid; if you're uncomfortable with an attorney's fee structure, consider using another lawyer.
- How long it took the attorney to resolve prior fraud cases: This will indicate the length of time until your case is finalized.
- The number of and feedback from references the lawyer provides: One or two negative references should not be cause for worry, but if you find several previous clients raising the same negative issues, consider finding another attorney.
- Whether the attorney has any special certifications or licensure: Most state bar association websites provide information about licensed attorney's certification, specialization areas, and date they became licensed.
- Any disciplinary action taken against the lawyer: Here again, your state's bar association website can provide you with information about whether the lawyer you are investigating has been subject to any type of disciplinary action during their time practicing.
If You Think You Need an Attorney
If you've been a victim of credit card fraud and have been unable to resolve the problems arising from that fraud on your own, it might be time to seek legal assistance. Always thoroughly investigate the background, experience, and current practice of multiple lawyers prior to hiring one to represent you.