By Sara Belsole
COLUMBUS, GA - There were 463 identity theft complaints filed with the Federal Trade Commission in the Columbus area last year.
Only three other cities in the United sSates had a higher number of complaints per 100,000 residents.
2011 is the 12th consecutive year identity theft was the number one complaint consumers made to the FTC. There were almost 280,000 complaints, up from 250,000 in 2010.
"Don't think you can prevent identity theft. Our identities are in too many places for it to ever be prevented," Susan Brezeale, an ID Theft/Legal Advice Specialist, says.
Something one local woman, who asked to remain anonymous, knows too well.
"I was completely oblivious to the individual, the man who had my ID, the woman who used it, all of that," the victim says.
This victim says she was hit hard when Columbus Police found the drivers license she had lost inside a hotel room where meth was being manufactured.
"There were four warrants for me. One was for manufacturing meth, one for intent to distribute and two more, one of which didn't even have a bond," the victim says.
She says she spent thousands on an attorney to prove her innocence, but just last year, she says she found out the charges are still on her record. "I am at a loss. I don't know where to turn or who is out there who can help me."
The mother of five says identity theft has ruined her life. "I can't own a firearm, I can't even go out because of these felony charges and get a job at McDonalds."
And without a job, the victim says her family is struggling financially. "When you have to dump so much money into attorney fees, legal counsel, doing everything you possibly can, we have exhausted all our funds."
"70% of identity theft requires an attorney," Brezeale says.
Brezeale says only 27% of ID theft is financial. There are four other types: drivers license, social security, medical and character criminal.
"Now there's a sixth type and that's called synthetic identity theft. That's where I take someone's name, someone's date of birth, someone's social and I create a whole new person," Brezeale says.
Brezeale offers these words to the wise, "Never carry your social security card or you're children's social security card in your purse."
Numbers show 400,000 credit cards were opened in the US in the names of dead individuals last year.
WLTZ NBC 38
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