The Fernandina Beach Rotary Club recently welcomed Cathy Costley with the Florida Attorney General’s Office, Identity Theft Division, Victim Services Unit who spoke about the growing problem of identity theft. Costley quoted several disturbing statistics: Every three seconds someone’s identity is stolen with some 13.1 million people becoming victims in the past year alone. Florida is number one in the nation for number of cases filed. And among our nation's cities, Jacksonville ranks seventeenth in identity theft. Costley said there are six major areas of identity theft: Government documents, credit cards, phone or utilities fraud, bank fraud, employment-related fraud and loan fraud. Once a theft has occurred, the burden of proof lies with the victim. According to the Federal Trade Commission it takes 200 business hours to clear up an incidence of identity theft.


In closing, Costley said it is up to us to take measures to protect against identity theft. She suggested purchasing a theft-proof wallet to protect credit cards from remote scanners and, since thieves often steal bank and credit statements from mailboxes and garbage cans, she recommends shredding anything that contains personal data. Lastly, Costley said, monitor your statements monthly and check your credit report annually.