Protecting your credit from identity theft

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News 12 at 6 o'clock, March 6, 2008

GROVETOWN, Ga. --- A simple snatch of a credit card could mean years of recovery for you. We're On Your Side with what you can do to survive ID theft and help your credit score.

Your wallet or purse is missing. Your credit cards are in the hands of a thief and your credit score may hit the roof. What takes only a few minutes to lose, could take you years to get back on your feet.

A Grovetown couple went to park a car in a handicap spot right next to Cracker Barrel. They went to eat dinner, thinking everything was okay.

"We thought our credit cards were secure. We didn't know they'd been stolen," says Morgan Simpson.

But they were. Now, time to recover. But, how?

"It's not easy. You can't just go into court and file suit saying this creditor should have never taken this credit card," says consumer fraud lawyer Sam Nicholson.

After canceling your cards, "the first thing they need to do is notify any credit reporting agency," says Sam. "And put a fraud alert in their credit report."

The agency stacks it up and tells all other agencies, "this victim of identity theft does not want any other credit issued on their behalf," says Sam.

"Then, they also got to report this information to any furnisher of the information. That could be anyone, a creditor, a landlord, insurance company," says Sam.

Lots of paperwork and now, you wait. It could take years. News 12 first showed you a couple of years ago just how easy it is to use someone else's credit card in a store.

News 12 asking, "Is the business liable for some of these charges going on these credit cards?"

Sam answering, "They can be. There's not much precedent in Georgia for that."

He adds, "I think, though, Congress has been hesitant to impose a big burden to business owners to take the steps to verify these credit cards."

He thinks the biggest obstacle would Congress doesn't want to affect commerce.

"Any obstacle the business owner encounters is far outweighed by the problems the consumer encounters by having their identity stolen," says Sam.

Those problems - as we've said - can take years to fix. Sam's seen where interest rates are high because of theft. In fact, Sam's working a case right now where someone's debt is still showing up in a credit report. Even though, everyone has been notified of the problem.

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