Trafficking stolen identities - ABC 33/40 - Birmingham News, Weather, Sports

Trafficking stolen identities

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Identity theft is the fastest growing crime in the country. It impacts more than 15 million people each year.

None of us is safe.

Identity thieves grow more sophisticated by the day. Their methods are constantly changing -- and the victims are individuals, retailers, and even the government.

One of the more recent arrests in Shelby County, deals with 'trafficking' stolen identities.

A man from Wisconsin was arrested and police say was in possession of 23 credit cards with the information of 22 different victims.

Agencies across Jefferson and Shelby counties are taking aim at taking down criminals who are trafficking people's identity.

"There's no longer the need to travel in your car from this point of the interstate to that point with a stack of credit cards and drivers licenses in your possession, all that information can be sent electronically," says Sergeant Clay Hammac in the Shelby County Sheriff's Office.

Hammac says more thieves are obtaining information from magnetic strips on the back of a debit or credit card.

"This strip is actually embedded with ones and zeros. It's that information of ones and zeros that gives the would-be offender identifying information about the card-holder."

This process is called 'skimming.'

"With credit card skimmers, they simply copy the information with the physical device, and then they would transfer that information to a credit card 'look a like', such as, a hotel room key or a gift card," explains Hammac.

It can be hard to tell the difference between a real credit card and a cloned one.

Lt. Mike Yarbrough handles cyber crimes and identity theft cases with the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office. He knows why thieves like identity trafficking.

"You have a less chance of getting caught. Because someone in California can steal someone in Alabama's identification, and sell it to somebody in Nevada, who takes it and uses it in say, New York," says Yarbrough.

For Hammac, the criminals who traffic stolen IDs, typically aren't alone.

"The person that we're encountering or persons are usually a very small tip of the iceberg of a larger criminal network that spans not only regionally but across the country. Sometimes even globally."

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