“Identity Theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in the nation. When a criminal takes on the identity of another person, such as obtaining a credit card or loan in another person’s name, the consequences to the victim can be catastrophic as they fight to clear the debts owed to creditors and their score on credit reports. As Attorney General, I will do everything in my power to vigorously prosecute cases of financial identity theft, making sure that our office seeks prison time for the offenders and restitution for the victims. I also urge each and every citizen of Georgia to work to protect themselves from becoming a victim. A few moments of caution utilizing the following preventative measures can often save years of heartache down the road.” --- Thurbert E. Baker, Attorney General
It is a felony criminal offense to obtain and use someone’s identifying information to obtain the financial resources of another. Here in Georgia the penalty for such an act is 1 to 10 years in prison for each offense.
The following are steps that Georgia citizens can take to reduce their likelihood of becoming victims of Identity Theft. 1. Find out before you reveal any personal information (social security number, drivers license number, date of birth, mothers maiden name, etc.) to another person exactly why that information is being sought, how it will be used and whether it will be shared with others. 2. Do not give out personal information to anyone unless you have initiated contact with that person, you know with whom you are dealing, and that person has a valid reason for seeking out personal information. 3. Do not use your social security number on your driver’s license; if you use it on your driver’s licence, change your driver’s license number the next time you renew your license. 4. Never have your social security number or your driver’s license number printed on your checks. 5. Minimize the identifying information that you carry with you (for example, do not carry a copy of your social security card or a copy of your birth certificate around with you as a matter of routine). 6. Minimize the number of credit cards that you carry with you in case your wallet or purse is stolen. Make sure that you have a list of your credit card numbers and the numbers of the card issuers so that you can cancel these cards if they are stolen, but make certain that this list is secured in a safe place in your home. 7. Do not mail your bills from your mailbox and put the red flag up; use post office drop boxes or take the mail to the post office. Get your mail out of the box as soon as possible after delivery. If you are going out of town, place a hold on your mail until you return. 8. Pay attention to your bills. Notify the appropriate company if they are late and make sure there are no additional charges to your account, such as credit card charges or long distance or cell phone charges that you did not make. 9. Order you credit report at least once a year from the 3 credit reporting agencies (you get up to two free each year if you are a Georgia resident) if you have not had any prior problems and at least once a quarter if you have been a victim of identity theft in the past. 10. Watch your trash—shred old bills, unwanted credit card solicitations, credit card receipts, and insurance or other medical information that you no longer need. 11. Find out who has access to your personal information at work and if the information is kept in a secure location. 12. Order your work history from the Social Security Administration every few years or every time you change jobs. 13. When opening new accounts, record when, where, and how you established that credit. Obtain the name of the person with whom you dealt and maintain those records.
If you believe that your personal identifying information has been compromised, here are some monitoring procedures that you can implement:
1. Contact the three credit reporting agencies and place fraud alerts on your credit file (this is to ensure that merchants obtain additional proof of identity beyond a driver’s license before they grant credit in your name). Make sure you find out how long the alert will remain on your file. Also, order your credit report and review for any unexplained activity. The three reporting agencies are as follows:
EQUIFAX Website: www.equifax.com P. O. Box 105873 Atlanta, GA 30348 Order Credit Report # 1-800-685-1111 Fraud # 1-800-525-6285 EXPERIAN Website: www.experian.com P. O. Box 2104 Allen, Texas 75013-2104 Order Credit Report # 1-888-397-3742 Fraud # 1-800-301-7195
TRANSUNION CORPORATION Website: www.tuc.com P. O. Box 34012 Fullerton, California 92834 Order Credit Report # 1-800-916-8800 Fraud # 1-800-680-7289
2. Contact your financial institutions and inquire as to the steps you can take to monitor unauthorized use of your account. If you have reason to believe that your account’s security has been compromised (i.e. someone has obtained access to your account previously without your authorization), you may want to establish new accounts in your name and close out your existing accounts. 3. Closely review your bank and credit card statements for any unauthorized use. 4. Contact your local post office to insure that a change of address form has not been submitted in your name.
If you discover any indication that you have been a victim of identity theft, contact the Governor’s Office of Consumer Affairs at (404) 651-8600 (if you are within the metro Atlanta calling area) or 1-800-869-1123 (if you are outside the metro Atlanta area) and the Federal Trade Commission at 1-877-IDTHEFT or www.consumer.gov/idtheft.