FRESNO, California - Identity theft crimes are on the rise all across the Central Valley, and experts believe car break-ins are a big reason why.
When personal property and information is stolen out of parked cars it sets people up to become victims of identity theft and fraud.
In the valley you don't have to spend much time looking for someone who has had their car broken into.
"They went through everything. Like my glove compartment was just emptied out."
Stephen Williams says the crooks stole a wallet, credit cards, and even checks.
"They started at a gas station, they went to Target, they went to a few places, but they used all of our credit cards," stated Williams.
Investigators say car break-ins are one of the most common crimes linked to identity theft and fraud.
"What we'll see is a criminal will call a bank and add themselves as an authorized user of your account. Then they get a new card sent to them and they go out and they use it and they go on a spending spree of course on your account," said Drew Mosher with the Clovis Police Department.
According to financial crime analysts, in 2017 identity thieves stole $16.8 billion from U.S consumers.
In many cases people were victimized after having their car windows broken and bags taken.
Randy Rasmussen sees many of these victims when he fixes their windows.
"You can just see the disgust and despair and the frustration," said Rasmussen.
The message from law enforcement-- do not leave your personal items and information in your vehicle. It's the best defense against relentless identity thieves.
"It's certainly less expensive and less time consuming to prevent it from happening in the first place than it is to try to clean up the mess afterwards."