May 13, 2007 — -- As David Dahlstrom, a locksmith, lived a quiet life in a small town near Salt Lake City, Utah, police say that a man whole stole his identity lived as him for years, all the while racking up a long criminal record in Dahlstrom's name.
"I thought identity theft would never happen to me," he said. "Well, guess what? It happened."
Authorities believe Dahlstrom's saga may have begun in 1985 when he lost his wallet that containing his driver's license, social security card and birth certificate. But that was years before the first strange thing happened, a notice that a credit card application had been rejected. He hadn't applied for a card.
Over the next 10 years, he was told he'd crashed a rental car, had run up a string of unpaid parking tickets and was involved in a hit-and-run accident.
"I mean, it's every day. I was driving, I was worried. Every day. What else is going on? How much more of this is gonna ... happen?" he asked.
But more did happen. Last year, local police called him in and told him there was a warrant for his arrest in California.
"Traditional identity theft -- I think all of us think of as financial fraud, credit card fraud. That is very common," L.A. City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo said. "But this is one of the most serious types where an individual steals your identity and goes out and commits crimes in your name."
The suspect, Yorck Rogge, was eventually caught, but Dahlstrom is still struggling to clear his name.
Dahlstrom is just one of an estimated 9 million victims of identity thefts each year. Many more people have had their identities stolen and don't even know it until their credit is ruined or the police come to arrest them for a crime they didn't commit.
"This is serious business and the damage to the victim is significant," Delgadillo said.
Identity thieves can be very creative.
Ron Hemphill stole identities for a living for 20 years before becoming an identity security consultant. One method he used was to record the license plates of expensive cars.