Facts about identity theft

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) estimates that there are 263,000 individual incidents of identity theft in Georgia each year, which ranks seventh in the nation in victims per capita. The financial cost to the victim is more than $1,000 per incident of identity theft, in addition to countless hours of letter writing and phone calls. The cost to business is more than $10,000 per incident.

In 2008:

  • There were 656 reported data breaches in the US, reflecting an increase of 47 percent since 2007.
  • Breaches took place at national companies such as Pepsi, Vonage and RBS Group. One of the largest leaks to place at Countrywide, where the personal information of 2,000,000 Americans was hacked.
  • There were 15 data breaches reported in Georgia alone, exposing the personal identification information of 300,000 Georgians. Click here to see a full list.
  • Georgia legislators passed a bill that gives Georgia consumers the option of credit freeze for the low cost of $3. The fee is waived for age 65 and older, and for victims of identity theft.

  • New account fraud occurs when an identity thief uses a victim’s name and SSN to apply for new credit. Legislatures in 39 states and the District of Columbia have responded by enacting credit freeze laws that allow consumers to stop credit reporting agencies from releasing their credit file. For example:

    A thief steals John Doe’s personal information and applies for new credit in Doe’s name. The creditor contacts Equifax, Experian or TransUnion for information on Doe’s credit worthiness. If Doe has placed a credit freeze on his account, the reporting companies must refuse to release any information, leaving the thief empty-handed.

    Although a credit freeze cannot stop abuse in existing accounts, it is the single most effective tool against new account fraud. In fact, credit freeze is the only way to stop new account fraud before it starts.

    Georgia authorized this protection for its citizens on August 2008. This effective legislation made credit freeze inexpensive, convenient and accessible. It gives consumers control over their credit files and personal identifying information, and prevents new account fraud altogether.