JOHNSTON COUNTY — If someone steals your wallet or your car, you call the police. So who do you call if someone steals your name or your credit? Federal investigators say identity theft is on the rise. It can just about ruin your life.
Here's how it works. Someone applies for a credit card, but uses your name and Social Security number. They run up thousands of dollars on the card and then disappear. You get stuck with the bill.
A Johnston County man learned it can take years to untangle the mess.
Forrest Rich has seen a lot in his 81 years; he never expected to see someone else pretending to be him.
"To me he's like a thief trying to steal something from you," says Rich.
He says someone has been using his name and Social Security number for two years now to get credit cards in four states.
The 'thief' has racked up big bills. Now collection agencies say Rich owes them thousands of dollars.
"I think they should be more interested in catching these kind of people because they're making a living on it," says Rich.
"If somebody wants to get your information, they're going to get it," says U.S. Postal Inspector William Johnson.
He and others who investigate stolen identity cases say if it happens to you, report it immediately.
"Their credit history becomes a mess and that often is the most difficult part to suffer through because of the headaches it causes," says Johnson.
Investigators say the number of cases of identity fraud is increasing.
A bill has already passed in the state House making it a felony to steal someone's identity in North Carolina.
"I think it has good support in the Senate so we'll be able to prosecute better in this state as well," saysN.C. Attorney GeneralMike Easley.
If you think you have been a victim of identity fraud, here are some steps you can take: