Identity theft is a major problem.
You likely know someone still trying to get their good name back, as well as their credit, because of it.
All this week 9 On Your Side is tracking the crime that costs its victims billions of dollars a year.
9 On Your Side recently sat down with North Carolina's lead prosecutor Attorney General Roy Cooper, who took some time to explain the scope of the ID theft problem and why simply losing money may not be the worst of it.
"How easy is it nowadays for someone to steal your identity," asked 9 On Your Side.
"Unfortunately it's very easy," said Attorney General Roy Cooper, (D) North Carolina.
Identity theft continues to be one of the fastest growing crimes in the United States. And as the state's leading prosecutor, Cooper knows all too well how big a problem it's become.
"People in North Carolina, every single day, not only are losing money to this scam, but they're losing their good names as well," said Cooper.
Identity theft has topped the list of consumer complaints filed with the Federal Trade Commission for more than a decade. Research from a company called ID Analytics shows there may be as many as 10,000 identity theft rings operating in the United States alone. Millions are affected across the country each year and the numbers for right here in North Carolina are staggering as well.
"As many as 300,000 cases of identity theft in North Carolina a year. It's a continuing problem. We fight it, we're able to make some arrests and we're even able to work with the federal government to arrest people overseas," said Cooper.
Identity theft is simple. An imposter obtains key pieces of what law enforcement calls PII or personal identifying information. Information such as your Social Security and driver's license numbers and uses them for their own personal gain.
"The Social Security number is often the key to unlock your identity for a thief. We've worked very hard to restrict the use of Social Security numbers and the required use of them. For example, we passed laws in North Carolina to prevent companies from using the Social Security number as an identity number for you," said Cooper.
Identity theft doesn't just happen to individuals. Corporations and small businesses are vulnerable as well, maybe even more so.
"Small businesses often are very vulnerable to Identity thieves. You see mostly individuals who are hurt, but sometimes they'll steal the information and the tax ID number of a business. Go and get a loan in that business name and are able to steal the identity and the good name of that business," said Cooper.
Financial ID theft is by far the most common. According to the most recent statistics, it's costing everyone tens of billions of dollars a year.
But still the money is lost by the business and often times those costs are passed on to consumers and consumers are stuck with someone using their good name and it's a high level of frustration for them that can sometimes last for years.
Identity theft isn't always just financial. Perhaps worst of all is when thieves will actually use your name and personal information when they're arrested.
People sometimes have used other people's identity to avoid criminal prosecution. People who are stopped and arrested for crimes give personal identification of someone else and then when they don't show up for court, the person who had their identity stolen is arrested for a crime they never committed.
It's scary how big a problem it's become and how easy it is to steal your life.
Coming up Tuesday night, 9 On Your Side's Jonathan Rodriguez will explain the different methods criminals use to steal your information.
Our weeklong coverage will end on Friday with a live phone bank so you can have any questions you may have answered, plus a shred-a-thon on Saturday. There's more details to come on that.
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