Identity Theft Cases Rise in Georgia

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - Check your bank accounts, even your credit reports. You may be a victim of identity theft.

The State of Georgia has moved up on the victims list in identity theft cases, from number nine nationally to number seven.

While it appears to be a bad thing, the Better Business Bureau says it could be a good sign because of increased awareness and more cases being reported.

Now, state lawmakers are taking action.

WTOC has shown you how easy it is to steal your identity, and warned you about ID theft dangers on the internet, in your mailbox, and through stolen credit card information.

BBB president Ross Howard may be the authority on identity theft, but he's also been a victim.

"Within one hour, they stole my credit card information. And within one hour they wiped out my checking account, nearly $2,000, so it's very very easy for people to commit this crime," Howard said.

Howard is not alone.

Taking a look inside the numbers of identity theft, in 2006 alone, Georgia residents lost $25 million to ID thieves. From 2002 to 2006, there were 34,000 reported cases of identity theft.

And since 2006, Georgia has moved up from number number nationally to number seven, for the number of identity thefts incidents throughout the country. However, while the situation gets worse, Howard thinks the number is deceiving.

"Many people who have not reported it are now reporting identity theft," Howard said.

Howard thinks exposing people to the dangers of identity theft is making a positive difference.

"I think we are seeing it reported more, because there is more attention, and what we could be finding out is the problem has always been this great we are just finding out the severity of it," Howard said.

So severe, Gov. Sonny Perdue is now in the process of forming an identity theft task force to deal with the growing issue.

"He says this will signal the end of identity theft and put ID thieves on notice," Howard said.

Gov. Perdue has pledged $1 million in the budget to help create this identity theft task force. If the plan passes, he says it will give more teeth to the government to go after identity thieves.

And here's why.

Right now, identity theft falls under the Consumer Affairs Department. But, they have no policing power. If the task force is approved, it would be under the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, and they can prosecute identity thieves, rather than have local police handle individual cases.

Reported by: Don Logana,