Protect yourself from Identity Theft - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Protect yourself from Identity Theft

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December 8, 2003

Albany - It could happen to you, especially during the holidays. All it takes is your nine-digit social security number, a pin number or a credit card to get into the wrong hands. So how do you protect yourself from identity theft?

Greg Blackmon investigates identity theft for the Dougherty District Attorney's Office. He admits, "A lot of headache for the investigator as well as the victim."

This time Blackmon became a victim himself when he left his wallet at the movie theater. He explains, "I had my social security number as my drivers license number."

A Darton College Student, 23-year-old Kwesi James Hopkins, plead guilty to stealing the investigator's identity. He wasn't a stranger to the investigator. Blackmon says, "No, he knew I was a police officer. He used to talk to me daily when I worked as a security officer at the mall. He knew I was a police officer."

Hopkins used Blackmon's social security number to open a checking account online. Blackmon adds, "He actually received $20 for opening up the account. He never deposited any money and wrote 25 checks on me."

The checks bounced leaving the victim with a bad credit history. This happened three years ago and Blackmon still has problems of wrong information showing up on his credit history.

It doesn't matter who your are, recently two Mitchell County Probate Judges had their identities stolen too. Three Albany men, 18-year-old Charles Calvin Wooden, 21-year-old Shaun Dewayne Williams and 42-year-old Willie James Minter were arrested and accused of that crime.

As for the investigator, Hopkins served time on probation, but Blackmon will continue to have major headaches as he tries to clear his own name so he can do something as simple as write a check.

  • Investigators say to shred credit card applications and receipts with credit card numbers.
  • If you're license number is your social security number, get it changed.
  • When you are shopping or at an ATM, shield your personal identification number because you never know who's watching, including cameras.

Here are more ways to avoid becoming an identity theft victim:

Remember the word SCAM!

  • Be Stingy about giving out your personal information.
  • Check your financial information regularly.
  • Ask for a copy of your credit report.
  • Maintain careful records of your banking and financial accounts.

If you believe you are a victim, call law enforcement then file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission. The toll free Identity Theft Hotline number is 1-877-I-D-Theft.

A credit report will cost you about eight dollars- when you're doing a regular check. However, if you've been denied credit based on a report, you are entitled to a free copy.

The three major national credit bureaus are:

  • Equifax, P.O. Box 740241, Atlanta, GA 30374-0241; (800) 685-1111.
  • Experian (formerly TRW), P.O. Box 2104, Allen, TX 75013; (888) 397-3742.
  • Trans Union, P.O. Box 1000, Chester, PA 19022; (800) 916-8800.

 

The Federal Trade Commission has some facts everyone should know about credit reporting, and your credit record.

 

posted at 5:40PM by kathryn.simmons@walb.com