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Don't be a Victim of Identity Theft

April 26, 2016

Have you ever made an online purchase or given your credit card to a waiter at a restaurant to pay for a meal? If so, you could have easily become a victim of identity theft. Identity theft happens when someone takes any form of your personal information and uses it without permission. We often think of identity theft as someone stealing our credit card or bank account information and making large purchases in our name. However, identity theft can come in many forms and can be damaging to your financial status, criminal history and reputation.

Someone Stole My Identity, What Do I Do?

First things first. If you know you’ve fallen victim to any form of identity theft, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) provides a list of things to do immediately:

  1. Call the place of business where you know the fraud occurred.
  2. Place a fraud alert on your credit report and also get copies of those reports.
  3. Report your complaint to the FTC.
  4. File a report with your local police department and get copies of the police report.

In 2012, identity theft was the number 1 complaint filed with the FTC accounting for 18% of all complaints received. What’s more, in 2012, Georgia had the 2nd largest number of identity theft complaints filed with the FTC (per 100,000 inhabitants for each metro area). There were 8 metro areas in Georgia that were ranked in the 50 largest U.S. metropolitan areas with the most identity theft. The 3 areas with the highest rankings were:

  1. Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Marietta — Ranked 8th
  2. Valdosta — Ranked 12th
  3. Albany — Ranked 14th

Types of Identity Theft

Although most of us are familiar with criminal identity theft — where personal information is stolen to make purchases, avoid legal action or gain access to monetary funds — there are many different forms of fraud that can occur. Some of the more common types of fraud are listed below. Follow the links to learn more about that type of fraud, get to know early warning signs and know exactly what to do if it happens to you.

  • Medical 
    Medical identity theft only made up .7% of complaints in 2012 but can be one of the most detrimental to your reputation.
     
  • Income Tax
    Income tax identity theft is on the rise. In 2012, 43% of FTC identity theft complaints were income tax-related, up from 24% in 2011.
     
  • Utility
    In 2012, utility identity theft made up about 9% of all thefts reported with nearly 7% related to phone and utility fraud.
     
  • Social Networking
    Although we know the dangers of hacking and identity theft, we still tend to overshare information on social networks, making them playgrounds for criminals. It’s best to limit what kind of personal information you share on your social networks. Even sharing information like birth date or high school can put you at higher risk for falling victim to this form of identity theft.
     
  • Child
    According to research done in 2012, child identity theft affected 1 in 40 households with children under the age of 18.
     
  • Elderly
    Oftentimes, folks living in elderly residential homes or being taken care of by a caregiver are at greater risk of elderly identity theft.

Understanding how identity theft can happen and ways to prevent it is the first step in keeping you and your family safe. The Georgia Department of Law, Consumer Protection Unit provides a great resource of general tips, offering ideas on how to protect your personal information, monitor your credit, maintain good financial standing and uphold your reputation.

Chelsea Stephens

About the Author

Chelsea Stephens is the Marketing & Training Lead for Digital Services Georgia. A Georgia native herself, Chelsea enjoys writing on topics that citizens and visitors of Georgia can enjoy and learn from. 

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