"It happens every year about this time," Bartow County Sheriff's Office fraud Investigator Chris Wilson said. "It's just the black market trade."
Wilson, who has seen many types of scams, fraudulent activity and identity theft through credit cards and Social Security numbers over the past few years, said there are several scenarios available that can explain how someone's information is obtained.
"You go to the hospital, you fill out paperwork and the lady who is there with you is, more or less, clerical," Wilson offered as an idea. "Who has access to those files? It used to be they were kept in a file cabinet and the orderlies emptying trash could get into the cabinet or pick up something from the trash can with information on it. Your Social Security number can be obtained numerous ways."
Doctor's and dentist's offices along with temporary services or employers all request Social Security information when filling out their forms. Even banks can be susceptible to giving up information for criminal purposes without necessarily realizing their actions.
"Banks, by law, are required to turn over their files when they are requested by another financial institution," Wilson said. "Almost daily I get letters from Capital One saying I've been pre-approved for their card. How did they get my information? Well, if they requested it from my bank, that's how they got it.
"Yet, on the flip side, while the Capital One corporation itself may be legitimate and credible, can one always trust their employees?
"Who works for these people to send out these notices?" Wilson asked. "I don't know. What if I'm a criminal and I have an organization and you're part of my organization. We can get you a job at one of these places where all you do is sit in there with a computer where you're going through people's information and sending out these notices.
"Whatever the case may be, when you think of financial institutions you think of something big," Wilson said. "But a lot of them are private. They're small. If they ask for [a bank's] files, look how many they get. With today's technology, it's very easy to obtain information."
Local CPA Jeff Mashburn of Mashburn & Ransom PC in Cartersville, said it's hard to know when an identity has been stolen.
"Unfortunately, you don't always know until you file a return and it comes back denied," Mashburn said.
To protect private information, Wilson urges citizens not to fall for scams and to use common sense. If someone is a victim of identity theft, the responsibility falls to the victim to complete all necessary forms with their local law enforcement. Depending on the situation, the course through paperwork wonderland begins. Contacting the three credit bureaus is a step that must be taken as soon as possible after the theft. For more information on the steps of what one should do in an incident of identity theft, visit the Federal Trade Commission's website at, ftc.gov/idtheft.