Identity theft rampant in GA - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Identity theft rampant in GA

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ALBANY, GA (WALB) -

Identity theft continues to be one of the largest crime issues in America, in both number of victims and money lost. Georgia is second in the nation in the number of Identity Theft crimes reported.

Albany Police hosted an identity theft prevention expert who told people how they can protect themselves. LifeLock, a company that protects the identities of two and a half million customers, gives free clinics to try to help people not become victims of Identity theft, because it is still a fast growing crime.

Mildred Green was one of the two people who attended the Identity Theft education clinic, because she doesn't want to become a victim.

"Knowledge is power,"  Green said. "The more knowledge you have about different things the more you can protect yourself."

And Identity Theft is a crime that threatens all Americans. It was the number one crime complaint to the Federal Trade Commission. 11.6 million victims in 2011, an increase of nearly one and a half million over 2010. And those victims lost more than $18 billion in those crimes.

Georgia has the second largest number of identity theft crimes in the nation, and is growing.

 "We do see an increasing amount of Identity Theft Cases in Albany," said Albany Police Media Manager Phyllis Banks.

So APD brought in LifeLock's Cory Smith, who fights Identity Theft everyday. And he admits it's a tough battle against smart criminals.

 "The thieves are savvy. They are up to date with protection measures that consumers and businesses are taking," Smith said.

Some identity thieves are low tech. From dumpster divers who get your bills or personal information out of the trash or your mailbox. Or another big method, stealing your purse or wallet out of your car, and with it your personal information off your Social Security Card and Driver's License.

But there are also high tech thieves, worming into your computer through peer to peer file sharing or e-mails or social network worms or malware. But more thieves are hacking into data bases containing thousands of people's information.

"No one can stop all identity theft,"  Smith said. "There are certain things you can do for free to help protect yourself. You can request a fraud alert with the credit bureaus. You can enact a credit freeze. You can be checking your credit file continuously and limit where you put your information in."

One of the simplest but most effective ways to fight Identity Theft, shred your papers and mail, and don't click on e-mails asking for your personal information or offering you lottery winnings.

 "I got a lot of good information I can apply, that I will use, starting now, effectively," Green said.

Albany Police say being informed is one of the best ways to fight this crime. 

You might think credit card fraud is the largest Identity Theft Crime, but now it's the theft of government documents and benefits. 27% of the Identity Theft crimes now are crimes like fraudulent tax returns, using your name to steal a large tax refund.

LifeLock also urges people to contact legislators to demand new laws to fight Identity Theft and help consumers report and resolve financial problems resulting from the crimes.

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