Local News

State AG Announces Plan To Protect North Carolinians From ID Theft

Posted January 15, 2003 12:05 p.m. EST

— Identity theft is one of the fastest-growing crimes in the country, and according to state officials, it is reaching near epidemic proportions in North Carolina.

State Attorney General Roy Cooper announced a new initiative Wednesday to fight identity theft through tougher law enforcement, more consumer education and better cooperation with businesses.

"ID thieves are growing more and more sophisticated in their quest to steal consumers' good names and ruin their credit," said Cooper. "Stopping the rising tide of ID theft will require strong law enforcement and prosecution, increased vigilance by banks and businesses, and a new level of awareness among consumers."

Cooper, joined by representatives from federal, state and local law enforcement as well as consumer groups, banks and retail merchants, outlined his plan to fight identity theft in North Carolina. The three-pronged approach includes more help and training for law enforcement, a campaign to raise public awareness, and cooperation with business to protect private information and fight fraud.

Identity theft appears to be growing across the Triangle. In Durham alone, sheriff's detectives investigated more than 200 cases last year, up from 13 cases in 2001.

To assist law enforcement, the plan calls for greater use of the national Consumer Sentinel database to track identity theft cases and more training through the state Justice Academy.

Under a law backed by Cooper and passed by the General Assembly last October, criminals who commit identity theft now face tougher sentences and judges have the authority to order convicted identity thieves to pay restitution.

The new measure also made it a crime to traffic in stolen identities and to use software or special scanners to steal personal information.

Cooper also called on businesses to safeguard their customers' private information and to work with law enforcement. In the coming months, he will join the North Carolina Bankers Association and the state Banking Commissioner in making North Carolina the second state in the nation to launch FraudNet, a cooperative database that will help the banking industry and law enforcement fight identity theft.

Cooper said people have to protect their personal information, like Social Security numbers and bank account numbers. He suggested investing in a shredder and mailing bills at the post office instead of from a home mailbox.