Identity theft happens when someone steals your personal information and uses it without your permission. Identity thieves may attempt to fraudulently use your information in many ways, such as:
- Open credit accounts or qualify for a loan using your credit record
- Get a job or receive government benefits under your social security number
- File an income tax return under your social security number
- Obtain utility services under your name
- Get medical services using your medical insurance
- Impersonate you when they commit a crime so their criminal history record isn’t affected
Identity theft is a serious crime that can have horrible consequences on your finances, credit history, criminal record and reputation. The emotional impact on victims and their loved ones can also take a terrible toll.
Anyone can be a victim. In fact, although identity theft complaints were the second most reported problem in 2015 according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), identity theft complaints had been the top category of complaints for the previous 15 years. In 2015, the FTC received over 490,000 complaints about identity theft, which accounted for 16% of all complaints received.
Identity theft is also a major problem in Georgia. In 2015, Georgia was the state with the seventh greatest number of complaints related to identity theft filed with the FTC (per 100,000 Georgia residents). Two Georgia metropolitan areas ranked among the 50 largest U.S. metropolitan areas with the most identity theft related consumer complaints (based on the number of identity theft complaints per 100,000 inhabitants for each metropolitan area):
- Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell – Ranked 24th
- Gainesville, GA – Ranked 40th
In view of the staggeringly high and increasing number of identity theft cases reported by the Federal Trade Commission each year, we have to protect ourselves and take an active part in helping to resolve these crimes. Arm yourself with information and tips on how to protect yourself and your loved ones. Learn about the different types of identity theft not commonly considered, such as income tax, medical, utilities and criminal identity theft. Be aware that different victim groups are often targeted by identity thieves, including children, the elderly, military personnel, job seekers, and those using social media. Educate yourself on what to do if you become a victim of identity theft.