Identity theft is something you often hear me talk about. But Los Angeles Times consumer investigative reporter David Lazarus has a unique perspective on identity theft. He's had his identity stolen three times!

The biggest breach occurred 15 years ago when an illegal immigrant from Jamaica named Derrick Davis pulled Lazarus' Social Security number out of thin air so he could get employment.

The police didn't care about Lazarus and his story until he tracked Davis down at his home and at his workplace in Connecticut. That's when he started making a stink about the situation. He was able to get Davis convicted of Social Security fraud and deported back to Jamaica!

Yet Lazarus is still cleaning up the mess David made 15 years after the fact. The consumer reporter recently received another bill from a zombie collector who bought Davis' old debt after it got married to his own credit file. (It should be noted this happened even though Davis only used Lazarus' Social Security number, not his name.)

Meanwhile, the latest debt Lazaurus is being asked to pay is well past the statute of limitations. That's why you need to know your state's statute of limitations. Once a debt exceeds the statute of limitations, a creditor can no longer legally sue you against that debt. Though they'll never tell you that.

Under federal law, a collector has to verify that a debt is legitimate. So if you dispute that debt, the onus is on them to prove its legitimacy. Proving its legitimacy can be very time consuming. Often, they'll just back off from bothering you when you challenge them.

Meanwhile, don't forget to freeze your credit. If you've been a victim of identity theft, freezing your credit is free. Lazarus recommends signing up for a credit monitoring service. AAA in some states will offer free credit monitoring in a partnership with Experian.

Finally, be sure to take advantage of your free annual credit reports through AnnualCreditReport.com.

Image of Clark Howard About the author: Clark Howard

Clark Howard is a consumer expert whose goal is to help you keep more of the money you make. His national radio show and website show you ways to save more, spend less and avoid getting ripped off. View More Articles

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