Florida identity theft capital of US

A US grand jury has indicted 15 Chinese citizens with conspiracy, fraud and forging passports as part of a scam to fake college entrance examinations, prosecutors said Thursday (AFP Photo/Paul J. Richards)

Miami (AFP) - Florida is the identity theft capital of the United States authorities said Thursday, as they announced a wave of arrests in a crackdown on the scourge.

Federal Trade Commission figures quoted by the Justice Department said Florida had the highest rate of identity theft of anywhere in the US in 2013 and 2014, with 186.3 complaints per 100,000 residents.

In Miami, the problem reached "near-epidemic proportions" with 316.2 complaints per 100,000 residents, the Justice Department said.

Federal prosecutors said a concerted effort had been made to tackle identity fraud following the setting up of a special strike force in 2012.

In the latest series of arrests, 42 people had been charged in 25 separate cases dealing with "tens of thousands" of stolen identities involving the theft of millions of dollars from victims and government agencies.

"Identity theft is a virus that has engulfed our community," US Attorney Wilfredo Ferrer said in a statement.

"Evolving fraud schemes are sweeping the state, utilizing the stolen personal identification information of our residents and individuals throughout the country."

Since the launch of the fraud-busting strike force in 2012, 359 people have been charged with offenses linking to $314 million in intended losses, the Justice Department said.

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