Special Report: Identity Thieves - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Special Report: Identity Thieves

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We swipe it. We type it. We write it. And we dial it. Our personal information from credit cards to Social Security numbers

Despite safeguards, there are people out there who work to get this information and steal your identity.

More alarming, metro Albany is one of the top areas in the country for identity theft.

They are hidden and they are malicious; Robbing their victims of their names and information, and using that information to rack up expensive bills.

"They did it right under my nose. I felt violated," said Identity Theft Victim Courtney Lovett. 

Angry at identity thieves. Courtney Lovett is one of hundreds of thousands of American victims. Someone used her personal information in 2009 to sign up for credit cards.

"They went and got Belk cards. They got Radio Shack cards, Visa cards, and Chase cards. Everybody was writing me. All in my name."

The crook posing as Lovett went on a lavish spending spree. She would first learn about it after receiving an $800 bill for a computer she never bought.

"When I got that information, I decided to do a credit check. When I did the credit check, there was a whole lot of stuff on there that I know I didn't purchase," Lovett said.

"They were going on the internet and ordering computers and flat screen TVs and cell phones from Sprint, T-Mobile, Alltel, Verizon, all the carriers."

In the end, the cards issued in Lovett's name would ring up around $10,000 worth of purchases. The expense documents piled up Forcing her to keep a constant check on her credit and get the police involved.

"Every bill that came, I had to get a police report. I had to get copies of my social security card, my driver's license. I constantly had to do that," Lovett said.

And Lovett is not alone. According to the Federal Trade Commission. Georgia ranks 4th in the country in identity theft with Albany metropolitan ranking 40th in the nation among cities with populations above 100,000.

"The losses are substantial and that's why the Secret Service takes this seriously along with local law enforcement," said U.S. Secret Service Agent Billy Joe Powers.

He is on the front line of fighting the war on financial crimes. About a billion dollars a year it cost Americans and businesses who fall victim to identity thieves.

"It is a lynch pin for all types of other financial crimes because the main thing for a person who is a fraudster or a financial schemer, is they're wanting to hide their identities and that's important to be able facilitate the rest of the financial crime they're committing," Powers said.

Just last month millions of Sony Playstation users had their identities compromised by hackers who breached the network prompting the company to issue its customers a million dollar theft insurance policy.

But some crooks use a skimming method on credit card machines like those on gas pumps to compromise swiped cards. That's why it's always important to pay attention to your recent credit history and bank statements.

It's steps many wish they had taken before learning their good name was being used to help crooks live the good life. 

There are three credit history agencies in the U.S. Experian, Transunion, and Equifax. Everyone is entitled to have a history report from these companies once a year.

 

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