Banks County Opinions...

NOVEMBER 5, 2003


Column

By: Rochelle Beckstine
The Banks County News
November 5, 2003

Who may have what’s in your wallet?
The commercials grab your attention. Identity theft is out there preying on greasy men in tank tops and old ladies scooping leaves out of their pools. It’s entertaining to watch a large man speak with the voice of a valley girl, but the point of the commercial is that if you have a certain credit card then the credit card company will save you from identity theft. A nice premise, but what do they really mean? Are they going to be my credit watchdog? Not really. After you notice that someone is charging things under your name, you call them and they have identity theft counselors who will help you report the theft to all of the authorities and send you a checklist on how to restore your credit.
The commercials seek to instill fear in our hearts that some irresponsible lowlife can make off with our hard-earned money. I tear up credit applications that come through the mail on a daily basis and give my credit card number out sparingly, but is that enough to combat the dirt bag who wants to buy a truck with nude mud flaps on my good credit rating?
In 2002, there were 4,709 complaints of identity theft in Georgia, affecting six percent of the population, a three percent increase from 2001, which had 2,592 cases. Georgia ranks 13th in the nation with 57.5 victims per 100,000 people with the most cases in Atlanta (817), followed by Marietta (248), Decatur (143), Alpharetta and Lawrenceville (both 123). Washington, D.C., tops the national list with 123.1 cases per 100,000 people. Forty-three percent of people in Georgia were victims of credit card fraud where people either opened credit card accounts in someone else’s name (28.4 percent) or they charged things to someone else’s existing account (10.3 percent). Utility fraud (namely new cell phone accounts) and bank fraud round out the top three. Eighty percent of victims in Georgia are between the ages of 18 and 49, with the highest number, 32 percent, in the 30-39 bracket, followed by 27 percent in the 18-29 bracket.
Identity theft costs consumers thousands of dollars to restore their credit standing and appease creditors, but there are many ways to protect yourself before you notice suspicious charges on your credit card bill. First, call the Credit Bureaus Main Opt-Out Line at 888-567-8688 to opt out of pre-approved credit cards that come in the mail. The number is automated and will remove you from lists for two years or permanently, depending on your preference. Second, visit fightidentitytheft.com and be aware of the current scams used with success that are out there, including fake IRS forms mailed to your home and emails from legitimate companies asking you to confirm personal information.. Third, shred pre-approved credit offers, credit information and convenience checks before throwing them away. Lastly, order credit reports every year to do a check-up.
Other small things that make us more vulnerable to theft are: carrying your social security card around, leaving mail for pick-up in an unlocked box, giving your social security number out to whomever asks and using your social security number for an id number or driver’s license number and, then, worse, printing it on your checks.
Identity theft is not out of control, but it is out there. Taking a few steps to habitually protect your credit may really pay off. After all, no one else is going to bail you out.
Rochelle Beckstine is a columnist for MainStreet Newspapers.

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Column

By: Angela Gary
The Banks County News
November 5, 2003


Don’t know much about football, but...
“Hey Angie, how many players are on a football team?”
I was busy at work one day last week when I heard this question come from across the hallway. I looked up and saw two of our sports writers huddled together in the office across from mine.
As I continued to type a news story, I said, “I don’t know—12.” There was laughter all around as one of the guys informed me that there are 11 guys per team. So, I threw in an extra one. What’s the big deal.
The next question was immediately fired at me. “Which position throws the ball?” Without looking up, I said, “the guy in the middle.” This brought more laughter.
I’m sure they were just ill because I was in first place last week among the “pigskin pickers.” As I keep telling the guys, you don’t have to understand or know every detail about football to know who’s going to win. As I’ve been told about many games, “it could go either way because in football, you never know...”
I think it helped their egos when I missed a few “easy” football questions. I guess I’ll have to brush up on my football trivia in preparation for the next round of questions.
My luck must have been down last week because I fell in the rankings to second place. We now have a three way tie for second with Ben Munro holding a slim lead. The season is winding down, at least I think it is, and the competition is sure to get fierce. Stay tuned...
***
Football isn’t the only fall thing that’s been occupying my thoughts. I also enjoyed this year’s Halloween festivities more than I have in a long time. My nephew Jake, at age 2, could get into the costumes more this year. He and I wore matching Cat in the Hat costumes for the annual Halloween Walk in Jefferson on Thursday. He didn’t like the tall hat, so his costume didn’t stay on very long. It was still fun and he helped me give out candy until the “scary” costumes started passing by. He didn’t like these much.
On Friday, Jake wore a Bob the Builder outfit and went to a church carnival with his parents. He left this outfit on a little longer and seemed to enjoy the festivities.
We also had a fall festival at our home this year. Hay rides, pumpkin decorating, a marshmallow roast and a barrel of plastic ducks for the children to pick up and get a prize are just a few of the fun activities.
The holidays sure are more fun with a child to enjoy them with. Be sure and cherish the times you share with your little one. They will be grown up before you know it. I’m looking forward to Thanksgiving and Christmas and all of the warm times ahead.
Angela Gary is editor of The Banks County News and associate editor of The Jackson Herald. She can be reached at AngieEditor@aol.com.



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