ATLANTA, October 8, 2002 – Governor Roy E. Barnes and Attorney General Thurbert Baker today unveiled a new Web site – www.stopidentitytheft.org -- that will give Georgians the nation’s most comprehensive one-stop information resource to combat the fast-growing crime of identity theft and help victims file complaints and restore their good names.
“Georgia has declared war on identity theft,” Barnes said. “We are proud that our state now has one of the nation’s most aggressive laws to protect consumers. This new Web site is an important resource that gives Georgians the information they need to protect themselves and to take fast action if they become victims of identity theft.”
“Today is a critical step in a fight that my office began four years ago - protecting the financial security and personal identity of Georgia citizens,” said Baker. “This website will make it easier for citizens to report identity theft and for law enforcement to establish patterns that will allow us to break up the crime rings that prey on our financial security. I hope that all Georgians will also use the resources on this site to educate themselves on how to avoid becoming a victim of identity theft. Together, we will put identity thieves in Georgia out of business." Attorney General Baker said more identity theft cases may be reported as consumers and prosecutors become familiar with the new law and the new Web site.
In 2001, 2,592 identity theft victims were reported in Georgia, the seventh-highest total in the nation. Earlier this year, the Georgia General Assembly toughened state law against identity theft by passing Senate Bill 475, which Barnes signed into law on May 2, 2002.
The Stop Identity Theft Network, a public-private partnership that brings together federal, state and local officials with representatives of major corporations and financial institutions, created the Web site. The network operates under the guidance of Georgia Attorney General Thurbert Baker and the Governor’s Office of Consumer Affairs.
The Web site is designed to speed the recovery process for victims who have discovered an identity theft crime has been committed against them. One recent survey indicates that the average consumer victim spends 175 hours and $800 resolving identity theft problems. It may take some victims two years or more to resolve problems with their credit file.
The Web site helps these victims by providing an easy-to-use complaint form that can be completed by any consumer in the nation. The form automatically goes to the appropriate local, state and federal agencies. Additionally, the businesses in the network have altered their business practices, placed helpful tips on their websites and taken other initiatives to help combat this crime that affects all segments of our society.
One of the most important features of Georgia’s new identity theft law is that it establishes the location for prosecution as the county where the victim lives, even if the criminal activity occurred in another state or in cyberspace. Prosecutors also have the flexibility to consider making the case in any county where part of the offense took place.
The new law makes the manufacture of false or novelty identification a felony, with penalties of up to three years in prison and $25,000 in fines. It also makes possession of stolen identification a felony.
The Web site not only has information for consumers, but also for businesses and law enforcement officers. The new law impacts all businesses in Georgia because it requires them to establish and practice responsible information-protection policies. Businesses that allow customers’ confidential information to fall into the hands of identity thieves can be fined up to $10,000. The law also requires police officers to take a police report from victims of identity theft.
The Web site, www.stopidentitytheft.org, contains tips for protecting confidential data, such as advising consumers to make sure their driver’s license number is not the same as their Social Security number.
The Stop Identity Theft Network task force will continue to hold town hall meetings, produce training videos and speak with neighborhoods, businesses and other organizations to spread the word about the tools now available to fight identity theft in Georgia.