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Debbie Dujanovic ReportingReporter: “Hi, we're from channel 5 news."
Why are we chasing this man? We want answers. Is he part of a problem that's so big, even authorities can't keep up? Eyewitness News goes undercover.
Eight and a half million Americans are victims -- tens of thousands of Utahns. It's growing so fast there's a good chance you can become the next victim.
One corner in Salt Lake is an open market for identity theft. No matter how many people police arrest, the problem comes back. We wanted to show you. After consulting with law enforcement authorities, we set up a camera. We go undercover to expose the fastest growing crime in Utah.
Investigators tell us despite police presence and persistent sting operations, it still happens there every day. A hidden microphone helps us listen in.
Undercover I.D. Buyer: "Mi amiga, la hermana is looking for a social security card."
The trail starts on the corner of 9th South and State Street in Salt Lake City. Get someone's social security card and you own their identity -- this man has them for sale -- and slips into this store to make the deal.
“Juan”, ID Theft Salesman: "My friend, he can do it, quantos dollars? I don't know, I'll have to ask."
He steps back out and other men approach. Once again, the microphone picks it up. He asks what name to put on the card.
The cost: 50-dollars. He'll pick the number, sometimes it's a stolen number, or they make it up, and you have to hope the number they create isn't yours.
Roberta Woody, ID Theft Victim: “It’s so easy.”
We showed our video to Roberta Woody; her number was sold.
Roberta Woody, Idenity Fraud Victim: “Someone sold mine, it’s been terrible, it really has.”
Her case is a good example of how identity fraud works. The man who bought her number is an illegal immigrant. He bought the card so he can get a job, but never pays state or federal income taxes. He files his tax returns using Woody's number, so eventually she gets slapped with late tax notices. He got bank accounts, cell phones, even utilities turned on at his home, using her number.
She spent years getting threatening letters and unraveling the money mess because the crime went undetected.
Lt. Tony Garcia, Department of Public Safety: “If the right person were to get your card in his hands, he could have a new identity within hours.”
Lieutenant Tony Garcia's work identities fraud cases for the Department of Public Safety. He's confiscated more than a hundred fake cards this year and his squad's made 200 arrests.
It's such an overwhelming problem, officers struggle to keep up. They make arrests, and within days there are new people out selling fake cards.
Remember "Juan" the salesman? He changed into a red shirt before collecting the money, going into a store for change, then he handed off a fake card.
Lt. Tony Garcia: “Looking at this card, holding this card in my hand I can tell you I’m 100 percent sure it’s fraudulent.”
We track down "Juan" and confront him near 9th and State. Reporter: "Did you sell a social security card last week, a fake one, right over here?" We tell him, he's on tape.
He denies everything.
Investigators say word is out in other states that 9th and State is the spot to get fake cards in Salt Lake. The fast money keeps the salesmen coming back.
What can you do to fight back? The social security administration offers great tips on ID theft, and what to do about it. You can find that information by following the links included at the top of the page.