Identity theft is a prevalent issue that consumers and corporations are always at risk. At the start of June, the retail giant, Kohl’s Department Stores, Inc. agreed to pay a civil penalty of $220,000 to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) due to allegations that the company failed to provide complete records of transactions to consumers whose personal information was compromised as a result of identity theft.

The complaint was filed by the Department of Justice (DOJ) on behalf of the FTC and did not comply with laws set by the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) that guarantee access of information that can help identity thieves to victims of identity theft. Apart from these violations, Kohl’s also failed to provide the required information within 30 days, as required by the FCRA.

The victims demanded information that included records of sales made by the identity thieves using stolen personal information, as well as the perpetrator’s name and contact information. Apart from the $220,000 the department store chain is liable to pay, 

Kohl’s is also required to post a notice on its website that informs identity theft victims about how to obtain records related to identity theft and certify that it has reached out to victims who were unlawfully denied access to such records in the past.

The Verdict

The current scenario draws attention to why Kohl’s failed to provide the required promptly in the first place. While paying a $220,000 fine isn’t precisely a dent in Kohl’s financials and is basically a slap on the wrist for the company, the entire situation could’ve been easily avoided.

Additionally, since it’s a retail company, Kohl’s is undeniably struggling to stay afloat. Covid-19 has had a detrimental impact on the retail industry, and Kohl’s is no exception. Since shopping has shifted online, Kohl’s performance has suffered due to this change. 

It’s quite likely that, just like other retail stores, the company is short-staffed in some areas and is struggling to survive. From rental expenses to utilities, Kohl’s needs to make a lot of payments and save its cash flow at the same time.

Apart from these factors, it’s important to note that the case-at-hand is the first of its kind the FTC has brought under its authority under Section 609(e) of the FCRA. It’s possible that because the performance of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) was increasingly being highlighted, the FTC stepped up to regain its relevance.

How To Detect Identity Theft

Thus, identity theft can leave consumers at risk. When left undetected, identity theft can lead to a wide array of damages, including financial loss and mental stress. Hence, as a consumer, you should always be on the lookout for suspicious activity, which could indicate that your information has been compromised.

So, as a consumer, how can you detect identity theft? Two things can help you out with this: subscribing to credit monitoring alerts and keeping an eye out for unauthorized inquiries, addresses, and new accounts reported.

Subscribing to credit monitoring services, such as Identity IQ, Credit Karma, or LifeLock, is an excellent way to stay alert. Traditionally, if you’re not monitoring your credit, you won’t be notified. In this case, you won’t know whether you’ve been a victim of identity theft until you receive your credit card statements in the mail. 

Sometimes, you may not even find out then and only discover you’ve been a victim when you apply for a loan, and you get denied because, suddenly, you have bad credit even though that wasn’t the case before. 

Subscribing to a credit monitoring will ensure you get alerts regarding any changes to your account. Hence, by keeping an eye out for any unusual activity, you can stay on top of such situations and prevent any significant losses.

So, keep track of any strange activity, such as address change requests of a State or city you’ve never been to. Such activity always shows that someone’s stolen your information online and has tried to open a credit card in your name.

How To Correct Identity Theft

Unfortunately, identity theft isn’t something new. It’s been around for a while now, and many people fall victim to it. Hence, if you find that your information has been compromised due to this, there are several things you can do.

Firstly, you should get in touch with a credit reporting agency and place a 90-day fraud alert, which is entirely free. The good thing is, you don’t need to contact every agency since the agency you contact is required to inform the other two of the fraud alert.

Additionally, consumers can freeze their credit reports, which is a long process lasting over 90 days. Apart from this, if you notice an activity that doesn’t belong to you, then the first thing you need to do is file a police report at your local police station. At this stage, you should acquire a hard copy of the police report, which is proof that you’ve reported the crime, even if the police don’t investigate it.

Moreover, you’re also required to complete an FTC identity theft affidavit, which is approximately four pages long and get it notarized. Then, you need to submit this affidavit, a copy of the police report, proof of your ID, and a one-page letter detailing the entire situation to each relevant bureau. The one-page letter should highlight the fact that the accounts didn’t belong to you opened fraudulently. 

As long as you follow the required steps, you can protect yourself from any further activity.