Police and prosecutors are increasingly worried about a brazen form of identity theft in which thieves go beyond financial fraud to assume the victim's persona completely.
So-called total identity theft involves crooks who use a person's name and Social Security number to get a job and other documents and services.
The scheme has been linked to illegal immigrants using stolen Social Security numbers to fill out payroll paperwork. Authorities fear the deception could soon grow to ensnare more unsuspecting Americans.
When Candida L. Gutierrez's identity was stolen, the thief used it to get a driver's license, a mortgage and even medical care for the birth of two children.
Americans reported more than 279,000 instances of identity theft in 2011, up from 251,100 a year earlier.