Protecting Yourself From Identity Theft - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Protecting Yourself From Identity Theft

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October 10, 2007

Albany - - It's a crime that can go un-noticed until a lot of damage is done. Identity theft is a growing trend in South Georgia.

Twenty percent of Americans are affected by it. A new report says Georgia falls behind 39 other states in offering ID protection. There are a number of things you can do, but you have to be careful even when you're trying to protect yourself.

It can start from a simple visit to your favorite mall.

"What are the chances of me having an identity theft? It's getting to be higher and higher," says Captain Craig Dodd. 

Someone can steal your important information and go crazy.

"Never turn over your debit card to anyone, especially at restaurants and bars. If they say 'I'll take your debit card up', say 'no I'll be more than happy to go up to the cashier and swipe it myself'," Dodd says.

Experts recommend you go online and obtain a copy of your credit report. You're entitled to a free one every year. But be careful. There are a number of web sites online claiming to offer free reports, but there are hidden fees associated with them.

"It's no different from getting an insurance policy on your automobile. You want to make sure you're protected," says Joe Vanden Bosch with Sun Trust Bank.

Sun Trust offers several protection options for customers.

"If someone was to obtain their social security number and try to apply or obtain credit in their name, our client will be alerted by email," Vanden Bosch says.

The basic plan is free, but the more you pay, the more protection you'll get. In one plan, if you end up being a victim...

"We'll pay up to $20,000," Vanden Bosch says.

That's to offset financial damages. Investigators say overall, you just need to be careful.

"Never give out your social security number to anybody unless you know who you're dealing with," Captain Dodd says.

And when you make a payment on the Internet, use a secure payment web site or don't pay online at all.

"Nobody is exempt from identity theft," he says.

But you can fight back.

Consumer watchdog groups recommend getting a credit freeze to stop thieves from illegally running up your credit, but Georgia doesn't currently offer that option. 

To access your free credit report, click here.

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