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Identity Theft and Business Accounts: the Responsibility of Banks in Georgia

Unfortunately, identity theft is on the rise. In the age of the Internet, many thieves are stealing username and passwords to break into online bank accounts and steal your money leaving no paper trail. This makes it even harder, by law, to hold banks responsible. While this is frustrating for consumers, causing credit report complications and disposable cash problems, victims who are business-account owners really get a bad deal: many federal regulations that protect consumer accounts such as the Electronic Funds Transfer Act do not protect business-account owners, regarding identity theft and subsequent illegal withdrawals.

The question for business-account owners is the following: how do you get your money back from your bank when someone steals your username and password and steals money out of your online business account, in Georgia? The answer depends on the facts of your case but here are some considerations that an effective attorney must address:

By law, generally banks in Georgia may not always have a fiduciary duty owed to their clients–a fiduciary duty is a duty owed because of a special relationship between, in this instance, the bank and its client. However, a fiduciary duty can be created, by law, if you have a contract with your bank that requires certain actions to be taken regarding your business account. That means the bank may have a higher standard of conduct owed to you.

For example, sometimes business owners open up business accounts that require special authorization before money or certain sums of money can be paid out from their business account. If that is the case, the bank “may” owe a fiduciary duty to you and be on the hook for money illegally withdrawn from your online account. Of course, other factors are involved.

In addition, while a contract may create a certain claim against your bank, what happens if you do not have a contract that created a fiduciary duty? An effective attorney must explore other claims and know what strategic approaches those claims require to be effective. For example, a claim of negligence could draw into question the bank’s security practices. In other words, did the bank use acceptable industry standards to protect your business account from being illegally broken into? Here, it is important to have an attorney knowledgeable about electronic discovery and computer forensics, amongst other things.

Lastly, although the account affected was a business account, you are a consumer. A good Georgia lawyer can help walk you through the specific police report process associated with identity theft, along with other actions that can protect your credit report and provide you with both long term and short term security against the identity theft perpetrated against you.

Contact the Oinonen Law Group LLC for effective counsel you need to maximize your position and effectively address this issue from all angles.