Tonight, CBS News 48 Hours introduces you to an information age world where your deepest secrets, even your own identity, are public property. This isn't science fiction. It's the reality of contemporary America.
48 Hours takes a look at one of the fastest growing crimes in the nation: identity theft -- stealing personal information such as a driver's license number or social security number. You'll meet Californian Cynthia Morgan, who recently found out that someone else has been using her name and social security number to get a driver's license, and to charge thousands of dollars worth of furniture and other goods.
To make matters worse, neither the police nor the DMV seem to care about the fraud. When the California DMV finally investigates and tracks down the alleged culprit, she turns out to be an experienced stealer of identities.
And you'll find out how easy it is to get personal information about anyone. You'll meet Al Schweitzer, a successful information broker, who, for the right price, can get you the data you need -- including salary, medical records and phone bills. Schweitzer struts his stuff for 48 Hours, getting mountains of private information about California couple Mike and Marty Koontz, who know that someone is trying to dig up their personal information and are curious to find out what could be discovered.
Then it's on to Baltimore, where video surveillance cameras can be found on many of the streets. Is this an invasion of privacy or an effective way to keep streets safe? Baltimore Mayor Kurt Schmoke thinks the cameras are a good idea, and says that crime dropped 50% in the area after the cameras were installed.
Ironically, while Dan Rather was talking to the mayor -- just 30 feet from the police video kiosk -- someone smashed a window on the 48 Hours camera truck! Although the suspect was caught on tape, police haven't yet caught him.
Aired: 10 Sep 1998