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What should I know about identity theft?

Authored By: GeorgiaLegalAid.org
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Identity theft laws in Georgia Tips Information

Identity theft laws in Georgia

What should I know? +

Contents


What is identity theft?

If you have been the victim of identity theft, it could mean someone has used your name to:

  • make purchases,

  • get credit cards

  • rent an apartment or

  • obtain utilities without your permission.

 

In some cases, thieves may have received medical services in your name, re-routed your tax refund, or even impersonated you during contact with law enforcement.

 

Identity theft may also include someone using checks on your account. This could be from stealing your checkbook or electronically obtaining access to your checking account. Use of an ATM card or credit card that you did not approve is also identity theft. 

 

In some cases, identity theft occurs within families to children, seniors, and domestic violence survivors, making reporting and recovery especially difficult.

 

How might it impact me?

Even if you are able to resolve a financial identity theft issue with your bank, this use of your name and credit history can result in you getting collection letters for things you did not purchase. 

 

It can also result in unfavorable entries on your credit report, causing you problems in getting credit or paying a higher interest rate.

 

Becoming the victim of identity theft can be a complicated and frustrating time in your life.

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What are my rights?

If your identity is stolen, you have the right to:

  • Report the theft to the FTC;

  • Put a one-year fraud alert on your credit report;

  • Put a seven-year extended fraud alert on your credit report;

  • Get free copies of your credit report;

  • Ask the credit bureaus to block fraudulent information from your credit report;

  • Dispute fraudulent information on your credit report;

  • Stop creditors and debt collectors from reporting accounts opened by the theives;

  • Get all documents related to the theft;

  • Stop debt collectors from contacting you.

 

You have the right to limit any losses from identity theft. 

  • You are not responsible for debt from new accounts opened in your name without your permission.

  • If your credit card is used without your permission, you are only liable for up to $50. But, if you report that your card was stolen or lost before it is used, you don’t have to pay for any charges.

  • If your debit card is lost or stolen, you are liable for:

    • Nothing, if you contact the bank or credit union before any charges are made.

    • $50, if you contact the bank or credit union within 2 days after you find out about the loss or theft.

    • $500, if you contact the bank more than 2 days after you learn about the loss or theft, but, if you wait more than 60 days after the statement is sent, you could be liable for all of the debt.

  • If someone uses your debit card number but you still have the card, you are not responsible as long as you report the problem within 60 days.

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What are my responsibilities?

Identity theft is illegal, but it is generally only discovered if you report it. You are responsible for reporting any fraudulent activity in your name to the credit bureaus, your bank or credit union, the credit card companies and the police as soon as you discover the theft. If you wait to report, you may be liable for some or all of the debt that the thieves rack up in your name. 

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What can I do? +

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What can I do if I have been a victim of identity theft?

There are many steps you can take to limit your financial losses and protect yourself after identity theft. 

 
Document theft with the Federal Trade Commission

First, document the theft with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the police. Creating a FTC Identity Theft Report can help prove to businesses that your identity was stolen. To do this, you must:

    • File a complaint with the FTC online or over the phone at 1-877-438-4338 or 1-866-653-4261 (TTY). It is important to save your complaint reference number and FTC Identity Theft Affidavit.

    • File a police report. Give police your Identity Theft Affidavit, any other proof of the theft, your address and your ID. Keep a copy of the police report. 

Your FTC Identity Theft Affidavit and police report are what make up the Identity Theft Report.

 

Report theft to credit bureaus

With the credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, TransUnion), you can:

  • Put a one-year fraud alert on your credit report. Contact one of the three national credit bureaus to place a credit report. The agency you contact must then contact the other two credit reporting agencies. With the alert, creditors will have to take steps to verify who is applying for credit.

  • Put a seven-year fraud alert on your credit report. Send a copy of your FTC Identity Theft Report to all three credit bureaus. With the seven-year alert, creditors must contact you before you issue credit in your name. 

  • Ask the credit bureaus to block fraudulent information from your credit report. To do this, send:

    • a copy of your FTC Identity Theft Report, 

    • proof of identity, and 

    • a letter telling explaining what information is the result of identity theft

Once you do this, the credit bureau must tell the creditor that your identity was stolen. That creditor then cannot turn over any fraudulent debt to debt collectors.

  • Put a freeze on your credit report. This will prevent anyone from opening a new account in your name. 

  • Request your credit report. When you put a fraud alert on your credit reports, you can get a free credit report from each of the credit reporting agencies. To get your report you should contact each agency, tell them that have placed a fraud alert and that you would like your credit report.

  • Dispute any errors you find on your credit report. To dispute the errors send letters to:

    • Each credit bureau,

    • The fraud department of the business that reported a transaction you did not authorize, and

    • The fraud department of any company where a new account was opened without your permission.

Once you report the disputed information, the credit agency has 30 days to investigate and notify you of the results of the investigation.

  • Opt out of pre-approved credit card offers that can lead to identity theft by calling 888-5-OPTOUT.

 

Report theft to creditors and debt collectors

With the creditors and debt collection agencies, you can:

  • Call to alert them of the identity theft and then send them a written letter with a copy of the FTC Identity Theft Report. This will:

    • Stop the creditor from reporting any fraudulent accounts to the credit reporting agencies, and 

    • Stop debt collectors from contacting you.

  • Ask for copies of any documents related to your identity theft, and 

  • Get information from a debt collector about the fraudulent debt.

 

Report identity theft to your bank

With your bank, you can:

  • Notify your bank immediately,

  • Close your bank accounts and ask for new account numbers,

  • Make new passwords and security questions for all accounts,

  • Get a new ATM card and PIN,

  • Get new checks and destroy old checks.

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What can I do if I am the victim of tax-related identity theft?

If think or know that someone has stolen your Social Security number to file a tax return in your name, you should:

  • Respond immediately if you get a notice from the IRS. The IRS may suspect the fraud and need you to provide information.

  • Complete IRS Form 14039, Identity Theft Affidavit. Mail this form to the IRS with your tax return.

  • Contact the IRS at 1-800-908-4490.

 

In Georgia, you can also protect yourself from tax fraud by requesting an IP PIN. The IP PIn is a 6-digit PIN you can get after verifying your identity with the IRS’s Secure Access process.

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Tips

Identity theft is a crime and as the victim of a crime, it is never your fault. While there are times when you cannot avoid scammers and thieves, there are steps you can take to try to protect your information. Here are tips to help you prevent identity theft:

  • Your Social Security number is one of the ways identity thieves can steal your identity. Do not carry your Social Security card with you. You have the right to ask the following questions to anyone asking for your Social Security number:

    • Why is the number needed?

    • How will it be used?

    • What will happen if your refuse to give your number?

  • Protect your personal information by:

    • Keeping important papers that have your personal information in a safe place;

    • Shredding any mail or documents with account numbers or personal information before you throw them away;

    • Making copies of your credit cards and IDs so that you can cancel and replace them if they are lost or stolen.

  • Keep a close eye on your credit cards and bank accounts. Check your statements for charges you don’t recognize and contact the company right away if you suspect fraud.

  • If your credit card or bank statement does not arrive when you believe it should, contact the company to make sure a thief has not changed the address on your account.

  • Use fraud alerts and credit freezes on your bank and credit card accounts to make it harder for anyone else to open credit cards in your name. 

  • Watch for anyone near you when you take money out of an ATM, who may be trying to steal your PIN number.

  • Report a lost or stolen credit card immediately.

  • Tax identity theft is when someone uses your Social Security number to file a tax return in your name to steal your tax refund. The best way to avoid this is to file your taxes early.

  • To protect your information online:

    • Avoid using automatic log-ins;

    • Use a secure connection when sharing personal information;

    • Be careful about posting identifying information on the internet as it can be used to crack security questions;

    • Use password encryption and change your passwords regularly.

Information

  • Report identity theft and get a recovery plan at IdentityTheft.gov.
  • Contact the national credit bureaus to request fraud alerts and to request a credit report.

Equifax

Equifax.com/personal/credit-report-services

800-685-1111

 

Experian

Experian.com/help

888-EXPERIAN (888-397-3742)

 

TransUnion

TransUnion.com/credit-help

888-909-8872

 

Last Review and Update: Jan 13, 2020