IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Law enforcement struggles to stop identity theft

Going after the people who are going after your identity is not an easy task. ID theft is so high-tech and widespread, law enforcement is struggling to get a handle on the problem. NBC's Tom Costello reports.

In San Diego, a high-tech, undercover, multijurisdictional task force called the Computer and Technology Crime High-Tech Response Team, or CATCH, targets the nationwide identity theft epidemic.

"This is the fastest-growing crime in the United States today, and it is worldwide," says Keith Burt, the project director of CATCH and a deputy district attorney in San Diego. "We had one individual who had 10 million profiles in his computer alone."

Ten million profiles equals 10 million identities. In recent months, at least 5 million more identities have been lost or stolen from some very big names, including:

  • The University of California, Berkeley
  • Bank of America
  • ChoicePoint
  • The Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles
  • DSW Shoe Warehouse
  • Boston College
  • Ameritrade

Police say there is now an all-out criminal effort to steal our identities, and trying to stay anonymous is almost impossible. Whether it's through our credit cards, banking account information, our online activity, even our garbage, everybody is vulnerable.

"This is why consumers are so upset," says Bob Sullivan, technology correspondent and author of a book on identity theft. "Some company you have never heard of has your data, they sell your data and then they lose it to a criminal, and there's nothing you can do about any of this."

At CATCH headquarters in San Diego, credit cards, driver’s licenses, bank statements and checkbooks cover a table — all of them stolen.

"This is one case and one suspect and probably some other folks with that suspect, victimizing 200 to 500 families in a particular area," says Terry Jensen, the commander of the CATCH team in San Diego.

In California, federal, state and local investigators work together on all five CATCH teams.

"Is it a finger in the dike?" asks Jensen. "Though I don't like to admit it, it probably is. But we're working real hard to make sure it stays as plugged as we possibly can."

The identity theft leak already costs Americans some $52 billion each year.