Georgia ranks No. 1 in the nation for identity thefts

How ‘fraudsters’ are stealing your information and how to avoid it

Georgia ranks No. 1 in the nation for identity thefts

COLUMBUS, Ga. (WTVM) - Columbus ranks sixth out of the top 50 metropolitan cities for reports of identity theft, according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

With the holiday shopping season in full force, experts suggest keeping a better eye on your personal information.

To buy someone’s social security number on the dark web, all it takes is one dollar and $10 for your driver’s license. So, for $11, you now have all the identification you need to take someone else’s identity.

China-based companies are outfitting scammers who bought your stolen information, with a fake ID, according to Bryan Lewis, CEO of Intellicheck.

“All you do is you send them a photograph of you, you sign your name, you send it to them digitally, they take payment in bitcoin, or debit cards, or pay cards from major retailers,” Lewis said. “Then, in a few weeks you get a license in the mail so realistic you can’t tell it apart.”

With this ID, scammers can access your medical records, personal information like where you live, and take your hard-earned money.

“If you think about it, when you go to cash a check or you walk into a retailer and they say would you like to save 10 percent by opening up a credit card, they ask you for two things, your social security number and a government ID,” Lewis said.

These kinds of incidents have cost the Peach State over $32 million in lost funds for 2020, not including unemployment benefits, according to the FTC.

“And unfortunately, Georgia ranks number one,” Lewis said. “So, you guys need to watch your information and watch what is happening and be very cognizant of all of your accounts.”

So, how can someone protect themselves from fraud and identity theft?

Experts say for starters, stop releasing your information when checking out at retailers. It’s often thought to be harmless, but third-party consumers can actually buy that information and sell it on the dark web.

“The reason why criminals are able to do this is because they have so much information about us,” he said.

It’s wise to also change your password on your accounts frequently along with monitor your bank statement. If there is something wrong, the sooner you notify, the higher chance you’ll have of it being resolved.

“If you don’t need credit, lock down your credit reports,” said Lewis. “Just go to each one of the credit agencies and say lock me down. Now, if you need credit, it is going to take two weeks to lock you down generally, and two weeks to unlock you. For those of us who have all the credit cards we need and are not going to buy a house or anything, it is a logical thing to do.”

Identity theft experts say the number of reports has doubled if not tripled since the start of the pandemic.

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