FORT MYERS, Fla.- A Fort Myers man says he was shocked to see his monthly credit card statement. That's because thieves apparently racked up $20,000 in fraudulent charges in just 30 days.
"I was just shocked that that number was there," he said.
Neal doesn't know how his information was stolen, but speculates his recent travel and online purchases may have made him vulnerable.
"I thought maybe our payment didn't get applied or maybe something occurred, but it only took about five seconds to realize that there was a massive amount of erroneous charges," Neal said.
The crime comes as a federal prosecutor announced Wednesday Florida has the nation's highest rate of identity theft.
The identity theft rate in Florida in 2012 was more than 361 complaints for every 100,000 residents, according to the most recent Federal Trade Commission data. Georgia was next at 194 complaints per 100,000 residents, followed by California and Michigan at about 122 complaints each and New York at 110. The 2012 figures are the most recent.
Among metropolitan areas, the Miami region topped the identity theft charts - just as it has previously for Medicare fraud and mortgage fraud - at more than 645 complaints for every 100,000 residents, according to the FTC. Florida has all five top identity theft regions: Naples, Tampa-St. Petersburg, Fort Myers-Cape Coral and Tallahassee round out the national top five.
Neal says most of the unauthorized charges were made at stores in Southwest Florida. He's filed a police report and is contacting every store to dispute the charges. He warns others it's a timely process, but he feels confident he'll get all his money back.
Experts say his case should serve as a timely reminder to keep your personal information close and consider enrolling in a credit monitoring system.
They also warn the number of identity theft cases in Florida could go even higher as we head into the income tax filing season.