Identity Theft Claims in Florida That Were Won by Consumer Attorneys

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  • Identity Theft Claims in Florida That Were Won by Consumer Attorneys
20 May, 2024
Catherine Testa Tillman
5 min
223
Florida city view with palms in front

When People Get Burned by Identity Theft in the Sunshine State, We Help Them Recover and Get Compensation.

In the land of white sand beaches, crystal clear water, and persistent blue skies, it’s easy to forget that alligators aren’t the only predators lying in wait. The consequences of identity theft are so severe that not even living in paradise can save you. But Consumer Attorneys can. We help Florida identity theft victims fight back and thrive!

From Natural Disaster to Man-Made Disaster

The $400K Helped Set Things Right

In 2017, shortly after Hurricane Maria devastated the island, W.B.S. moved from Puerto Rico to Florida. Shortly after he arrived, he was not only the victim of identity theft but also the victim of the negligence of several Consumer Reporting Agencies (CRAs), creditors, and financial data furnishers. This negligence severely impacted his creditworthiness, his economic standing, his physical well-being, and his mental health. 

In 2018, W.B.S. tried to open a bank account and was confused when the bank asked him about a Massachusetts account he had never opened. W.B.S. suspected identity theft, checked his credit through Credit Karma, and was startled to learn of multiple unrecognized accounts. E.B.S. tried to resolve the issues by directly contacting and filing disputes with the CRAs and creditors, and filing a police report and an ID theft report with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Instead of addressing the fraudulent activities, creditors continued to send collection notices as W.B.S. repeatedly disputed the fraudulent charges with the CRAs and the creditors. Despite these efforts, the fraudulent activities continued to be reported on his credit report.

The CRAs failed significantly in handling W.B.S.’s disputes. Despite his timely disputes and identity verification, the CRAs did not update W.B.S.’s credit report and failed to conduct reasonable investigations as mandated by the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). This negligence extended to the creditors and data furnishers who, upon receiving disputes, merely confirmed the accuracy of their initial information without proper investigation.

These entities also failed to consult external sources or adequately review the disputes. Rather, they relied on automated systems that reaffirmed the fraudulent data. The collective negligence of the CRAs and the data furnishers led to and prolonged the financial, mental, and physical damage W.B.S. experienced. He was unable to obtain fair credit. He suffered from stress, anxiety, sleep loss, depression, and perpetual worry about the reputational damage. He endured physical ailments, including high blood pressure. He was unable to enjoy daily activities with his family. In short, it was a highly uncordial welcome to the United States though a good introduction to how large corporations think they can disobey the laws. 

After years of ardent and diligent but ultimately futile communications with the CRAs and creditors, W.B.S. contacted Consumer Attorneys. We filed suit in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida against 15 defendants! These defendants included the creditors and data furnishers who disregarded W.B.S. and are some of the biggest corporations in the world, along with several CRAs. Attorneys Catherine Tillman and Sylvia Bolos shepherded the case to settlements totaling nearly $400,000.

W.B.S.’s experience - pivoting from an actual hurricane to a hurricane of apathy following his identity theft - highlights the disregard that CRAs and furnishers can often show for the FCRA and their systemic preference for cost-saving over accuracy. It also emphasizes how someone caught in such a storm needs a reliable, adept, aggressive, and caring attorney at their side. 

A Diabolical Diner Deception

Money from a $50K Settlement Sure Helped

G.O., originally from Lebanon, moved to the United States in 2014 to pursue his dream of opening his own restaurant. Before long, he opened a diner in Miami, Florida.  Unfortunately, G.O. became the victim of identity theft perpetrated by a customer named Bob (not his real name), who, under the guise of offering to help G.O. navigate financial tasks, obtained G.O.’s personal information. Bob exploited his access to G.O.’s information to open numerous fraudulent accounts between 2014 and 2019. G.O.’s lack of familiarity with the U.S. credit system left him vulnerable and unaware of the identity theft and Bob’s malfeasance until debt collectors contacted him in late 2019.

G.O. reviewed his consumer reports and found numerous unfamiliar accounts and transactions. Upon realizing the extent and scope of Bob’s betrayal, G.O. took the necessary steps to fix it. He filed a police report and an Identity Theft Victim’s Complaint and Affidavit in early 2020. Despite these efforts, G.O. faced significant challenges in resolving the fraudulent activities with the Consumer Reporting Agencies (CRAs).  Not all the CRAs removed the fraudulent accounts from G.O.’s credit report and, even as the CRAs removed some accounts, new fraudulent ones appeared or old ones were reinserted into his credit report. It was a revolving door of negligence. 

G.O. continued to submit disputes to Equifax and Experian, including all necessary documentation and proof of identity theft. The response from the CRAs continued to be inadequate. Equifax and Experian failed to block or adequately investigate the disputed accounts, leading to continued inaccuracies in G.O.’s credit reports. The ongoing issues had severe real-life consequences for G.O., including the denial of a mortgage application, lost business opportunities, emotional distress, physical ailments, and the continued erosion of his creditworthiness. 

In April 2022, after dealing with these ongoing and escalating credit issues and the direct financial consequences of identity theft for three years, G.O. sought legal counsel. He contacted Consumer Attorneys. We filed suit in the United States District Court in the Middle District of Florida against the CRAs and several creditors who had neglected to follow the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) mandates. The defendants were eager to settle, and after a few months, we settled for almost $50,000, a sum that G.O. found very favorable. 

We were happy to fight for G.O. We were happy also to hold the CRAs and financial companies accountable for their noncompliance with the FCRA and their general disregard for people. Watching G.O. use the settlement to get his business and life back on track and watch him flourish has been gratifying. 

However, we do wonder about all those whom consumer reporting agencies and creditors are still ignoring. The problem of identity theft is not getting any better. While criminals become more aggressive, creative, and adept at stealing personal information, the CRAs continue to have little regard for the plight of identity theft victims. 

A Prolonged Dispute Makes Things Worse

Instead of an Easy Resolution, They Paid $100K Instead

In July 2022, Florida resident M.P. received an alert from ID Guard notifying him of a delinquency on a Synovus-issued 1st Progress card. M.P. was alarmed as he had never opened an account with Synovus. M.P. immediately requested and reviewed his consumer reports, confirmed someone opened the fraudulent account in March 2022, and contacted Synovus to report the fraud. Despite his prompt notification, Synovus took no action. And this troubling and clear instance of identity theft grew even more troubling due to systemic failures by Synovus and the credit reporting agency Experian. 

M.P.’s next step was to file a police report and repeatedly dispute the fraudulent account and the identity thief’s fraudulent inquiries with Experian. M.P. attached the necessary police report and wrote the necessary dispute letters. Each time, Experian responded by either reaffirming the account’s validity based on Synovus’s verification or updating the account to reflect increased delinquency. This indicated a grave oversight in Experian's dispute resolution process, which relied solely on Synovus’s flawed verifications over the verified police report. In October 2022, Synovus acknowledged the error and informed M.P. that the matter had been resolved in his favor, promising to update the credit reporting agencies accordingly. 

However, Experian’s follow-through was lackluster. Experian demanded further proof of identity theft. M.P. complied and submitted an additional dispute - this time with a Federal Trade Commission ID theft report - to Experian in November. M.P. reiterated his request that Experian remove the fraudulent account and inquiries from his credit report. Again, Experian denied this request. Despite all his efforts, Experian kept the Synovus account and the fraudulent hard inquiries on Mr. Pecoraro’s credit report. The time this was taking, the emotional toll this was taking, and the financial opportunities M.P. was losing were significant and growing bigger daily. 

M.P. submitted another dispute in February 2023, and the following month, after nearly a year of disputes and repeated evidence submissions, Experian finally removed the fraudulent 1st Progress account from Mr. Pecoraro’s credit report. Even then, Experian refused to remove some of the hard inquiries from M.P.’s credit report, including a hard inquiry about a loan request from Wells Fargo. 

M.P. contacted Consumer Attorneys in April 2023. The legal team filed suit in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida - West Palm Beach Division against Experian and Synovus for their collective failures to review pertinent information and make a reasonable investigation as required by the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). Experian’s and Synovus’s reliance on automated systems, as opposed to the irrefutable evidence supplied by M.P., is the very behavior the FCRA aims to prohibit. The emotional, financial, mental, and reputational toll their non-compliance and overall apathy had on M.P. was substantial. 

As the Consumer Attorneys team prepared M.P.’s case, Experian’s and Synovus’s impending fault and liability became apparent, and they approached us to negotiate a settlement. We recently settled the case for nearly $100,000 - money M.P. will use to help him recover from the damage.  

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About the author
Catherine Testa Tillman
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Prior to joining Consumer Attorneys, Katie was with Gulfcoast Legal Services, a non-profit legal aid organization serving Pinellas, Manatee and Sarasota counties in FL. Read more

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