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(NBC News) -- In the time it will take for you to watch this report, 39 consumers will become victims of identity theft.
While most victims never know the crook, a study says: 17-percent do. They're family members or relatives.
Victoria Lim shows us how it happens and why little is done to stop it. "Charlie" Identity Theft Victim
Bob Elek, Verizon:
Richard Lawson, Florida Assistant State Attorney:
Before companies let you see light, Channel surf, Or receive a ring, they conduct a credit check. It's part of setting up an account.
"Charlie", Identity Theft Victim: “I call the phone company and they said I had an outstanding balance of like $200, $225. “
But some brand new customers like charlie - who asked we not show his Face or give his real name - have account problems before they ever Become a customer.
"Charlie", Identity Theft Victim: “They said it was from, like, '89 and if that was the case I woulda been 13, 14 at the time. Kinda hard for me to have my own bachelor pad at 13 or whatever, so. “
As a teen - Charlie was a victim of identity theft. And he found the culprit ... His mom.
"Charlie", Identity Theft Victim: “I guess she got behind on her phone and you know, you need a phone to get a job, you need a phone so people can get a hold of you so she could check in on us when we weren't in school or at home. So she did the next best thing which was turn it on in my name, I guess. “
How does it happen? Consider the process for establishing a new account. All companies need, like verizon for example, is a social security Number. And parents definitely have access to those.
Bob Elek, Verizon: “That social security number comes up, there's no credit history, no problem, it appears to be no problem for us, so we provide the service. “
In the past 4 years, Bob Elek says verizon has logged a thousand incidents like charlie's. Progress energy estimates its "revenue recovery" team spends 30-percent of its time on this kind of i-d theft.
Bob Elek, Verizon: “Teco and Brighthouse networks tell me it's uncommon, but not unusual. “
Richard Lawson, Florida Assistant State Attorney: “Absolutely it's going to be a crime.”
Assistant state attorney Richard Lawson investigates ID theft. Lawson says prosecuting a case like this is rare.
Richard Lawson, Florida Assistant State Attorney: “It's very understandable children wouldn't wanna turn in their parents. That's very easy to understand and goes a long way to the relative scarcity of these types of cases that we see. “
Florida law punishes individuals who commit robbery with a firearm just As harshly as parents who steal a child's identity. You can face up to 15 years in prison. Charlie's mom faced none of that - he never reported her.
"Charlie", Identity Theft Victim: “I coulda had an A1 credit rating, and unfortunately it was the reverse. It was kinda in a negative standing. “
His mom eventually paid off the debt she racked up in his name. And while he understands why she did it, Charlie hopes he never has to Follow in her financial footsteps.