According to Consumer Sentinel Report, which is a consumer report released by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), Georgia is ranked second in the nation for identity theft and identity fraud reports.
On a case Management Query released from the Gordon County Sheriff’s Office there were 90 cases dealing with some sort of identity fraud. Of the 90 cases, 44 were identity fraud, 21 were fraud-financial identity, 15 of the cases were forgery cases, six were financial transaction card fraud, three were theft by taking and one was theft by conversion, and only 34 where cleared by arrest.
The law for identity fraud is extremely broad.
According to Sergeant Mikie Burnette of the Gordon County Sheriff’s Office, “The law itself says a person commits the events of identity fraud when he or she willfully or fraudulently without authorization uses or possesses with intent to fraudulently use identifying information of an individual.”
Within the constructs of this law the person who is the victim is really just a number.
According to Burnette, any of the following information could be used to commit identity fraud: names, social security number, driver license number, check and saving account number, credit or other financial transaction card numbers, debit card numbers, pin numbers, digital signature, birthday, medical identification and mother maiden name.
The criminal act of stealing identities isn’t appallingly bad here, but it does happen, what mostly happens here is generally the victim lives here, according to Burnette.
The problem law enforcement has is that if someone in another state steals someone’s identity here then by law Gordon County is obligated to open a case, but then they have the option to send it to any other state or jurisdiction in which the crime occured or to keep the case here, according to Burnette
In either case, the state or jurisdiction that takes the case is relying on the other party or parties to work with them, and the prosecuting jurisdiction may even have to bring the person who’s identity was stolen or the officer to testify in the court case against the thief. This would involve spending taxpayer’s dollars for the extradition or travel expense, according to Burnette.
If Gordon County decides to take the case, Burnette said, “I’m relying on someone from another state to give me information. I can get a court order to get the information but once that court order crosses the line they don’t have to honor it.”
When someone steals someone’s identity all the victims want is their money back, and they use officers like Burnett as a bargaining tool to get the money, according to him.
When someone’s money is stolen out of their bank, “that is insured by FDIC and your going to get your money back in a few days. Then you are no longer the victim, so now the bank is,” said Burnette. “The banks just pass the loss on to the customers and raise interest rates, because they will get their money back.”
The outlet mall and the gas stations off the interstate get hit the worst with people using false identification. Thieves can use the interstate to their advantage, and get off an exit get gas and whatever else they need using someone else’s information, and get back on the interstate. This could happen over the extent of five or six jurisdiction in a few hours, according to Burnette.
“The bad guys aren’t from here,” said Burnette.
According to the FTC’s website there are many ways in which a thief can steal someone’s identity:
Dumpster diving, where they find personal information in the trash that has been thrown out.
Skimming, which is how they steal card numbers by using a special storage device when processing cards
Phishing is when they pretend to be a company and send spam to get someone to reveal personal information
Old-fashioned stealing, where they steal personnel records, or bribe employees who have access.
Changing someone’s address, is when the thief will divert billing statements to another location by completing a change of address form.
Pretexting is where they use false pretenses to obtain personal information from companies and organizations.
The best way to find out if someone has been the victim of identity theft is to check bank statements, and keep a constant check of credit reports.
“Armed with the knowledge of how to protect yourself and take action, you can make identity thieves’ jobs much more difficult. You can also help fight identity theft by educating your friends, family, and members of your community,” according to the FTC.
For more information on identity theft, forms to file complaints and better ways to protect information, visit the FTC’s website at www.ftc.gov.