Seminar teaches identity theft prevention

A seminar on Monday told business owners and citizens prevention methods for credit card fraud and identity theft / Sarah Bleau

Change of address cards, wallets, medical documents, Facebook: These are just a few of the places identity theft experts say where your personal information and credit card information can be compromised.

"If I get my bank statement and I bank at Wells Fargo and I throw away the envelope, if someone goes through my garbage they know I bank at Wells Fargo. That's one piece of the puzzle they do not have to figure out," says Paige Hanson, Manager of Educational Programs for LifeLock.

Business leaders and citizens who attended an identity theft seminar Monday learned just how common credit card fraud and identity theft is in Georgia.

"I was very shocked to learn that Georgia was ranked number four in the national in terms of identity theft," says Barbara Hall, who attended on behalf of the dentist office she works for.

According to Hanson, government document and benefit fraud as well as credit card fraud are the top two fraud crimes in Georgia.

"That is a very huge shocker but another one is where skimmers can be, the fact that your card can be duplicated almost anywhere now," she says. "Those skimmers can actually hold up to 1,000 numbers in some of them, so thousands of people can be compromised. If you're at a busy restaurant, person after person goes through there that's hundreds of cards in a day that can be compromised."

She says skimmers can be small enough for a restaurant employee to put in their pocket or hand; others are commonly placed over ATM machines and gas pumps outdoors.

"You may get it (your credit card) out to pay for your meal, get it out to pay for purchases, your groceries, gas, get money, but other than having in it your wallet, all those places can be compromised," says Hanson.

To prevent being a victim of credit card fraud or identity theft she says it's not just one thing you can do: It's a lot of little things. She says getting a cross-cutting shredder for documents with personal information, checking bank account statements regularly and monitoring your annual credit report are a few of the ways to prevent you from becoming a victim.

Other services available for consumers include credit monitoring through the credit card company you use, credit freezes and identity theft protection. Fraud alert services are available through TransUnion, Equifax and Experian, according to Hanson.

She says daily risks and scams include phishing emails, the red light ticket scam, RFID chips on some credit cards (which consumers can opt out of with a phone call to the credit card provider) and through genealogy websites.

If you become a victim of credit card fraud or identity theft, Hanson recommends visiting NOVA's website for the steps to take. She also says if you become a victim to report your case to the Federal Trade Commission.