Identity Theft Prevention at Fort Stewart - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

09/18/03

Identity Theft Prevention at Fort Stewart

Imagine someone using credit cards, buying cars and homes, pretending to be you. It happens every day. Identity theft costs victims and businesses billions each year. The soldiers who protect our country are not exempt, and they got a lesson today at Club Stewart in protecting their wallets and their credit.

Lt. Col. Stephen Berg, a JAG prosecutor, helps victims in a military courtroom. He told the crowd today he didn't know he had been a victim until he got strange bills in the mail. "It was from a company I didn't recognize for a few hundred dollars on a $3,000 debt I was unaware of," he told us.

Its called identity theft and its the fastest-growing crime in the country. Other soldiers said they became victims through divorce or just losing their wallet. Criminals can become you with very little information. "All they need to do is memorize the account number from the check you're writing or the credit care you have on the counter," said Cpl. Albert Jeffcoat of Savannah PD.

One of the easiest methods of identity theft is Dumpster diving. Criminals literally rummage through your trash for bank statements, financial records, anything they could use to become you. Investigators say customers should watch out for any deal that sounds too good to be true and offers that ask for too much data.

Georgia Attorney General Thurbert Baker, who attended the meeting, says Georgia laws lead the Southeast. "We've been able to create a website where victims can go online and log in complaints and problems," he told us.

The governor's Office of Consumer Affairs advises people to shred all of their financial documents. Only use shredders that cut documents both vertically and horizontally. (Some companies call them cross-cut or confetti shredders.) And never give vital information over the phone to telemarketers either selling or asking for charity donations.

Reported by: Dal Cannady, dcannady@wtoc.com

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