Weekly Column

Last year, a couple from Omaha decided to make a trip to Chicago. They raved about their experience at the hotel – until they checked out of their room and received the bill. Hotel staff notified the couple that they owed thousands of dollars in fees for an additional three-night stay in a room they never reserved. After returning home, they received another bill from the hotel, totaling more than $6,500.

Credit scammers had hacked their credit information and were still on a spending spree, long after the couple had left Chicago.

It’s a case we hear about too often. These bad actors hijack reservations or personal information online to make outrageous purchases, while leaving families to foot the bill.

Odds are you have had similar experience with identity theft or know someone who has. You’ve probably received a phone call pleading you to hand out your personal information disguised as an emergency. And you may have been flooded with mail congratulating you as the winner of thousands of dollars and a free vacation.

According to the Federal Trade Commission, nearly 445,000 people across America were victims of identity theft in 2018. Credit card fraud accounted for the most significant damages.

Aside from the loss of your hard-earned money, another hurdle in recovering from these scams is ensuring that your credit rate does not plummet because of the unauthorized purchases.

Whether it’s the purchase of a car, a home mortgage, applying for a job or a student loan – we all know how important our credit score is to some of the most important purchases in our lives.

However, loopholes in the law have caused many consumers to be left with unresolved disputes and no correction to credit history.

Credit reporting agencies are only required by law to conduct a “reasonable” investigation. This is an ambiguous term that the agencies often use as an excuse for inadequate investigations and failed follow-ups with information providers, credit companies, or debt collectors. 

It’s a process that has caused even more anxiety and stress for Nebraskans, after enduring the loss of money they’ve worked hard to earn for their families.

This is unacceptable, and it needs to be fixed quickly. That’s why I have been working with my colleague Senator Rick Scott of Florida on a common-sense solution: The Identity Theft Victims Protection Act

The legislation would erase any room for ambiguity in the process of credit corrections. It would amend current law to require a credit reporting agency to correct all consumer credit history that is a result of identity theft. 

The Identity Theft Victims Protection Act also provides justice by punishing the illegal acts of these scammers. The bill would remove inaccurate information from your credit history and transfer the removed information to the credit history of the perpetrator. 

I am proud to be a champion for the Identity Theft Victims Protection Act. It will provide Nebraskans with the assurance and protection they deserve when making financial decisions. You can be sure I’ll continue to urge my colleagues to vote in its favor over the coming months.

As we approach the year’s busiest shopping season, it is critical that Nebraskans are aware and on guard for identity theft and fraudulent credit card charges.

I encourage everyone to regularly monitor your account statements, and if you discover a fraudulent charge you can report it immediately by visiting protectthegoodlife.nebraska.gov or calling 800-727-6432.

Thank you for participating in the democratic process. I look forward to visiting with you again next week.