Tampa, Florida -- An Armwood High School student is accused of stealing the identities of dozens of people in order to collect debit cards in their names.
18-year-old Devonte Jackson has been charged with 41 counts of Fraudulent Use of Personal Information, one count for each alleged victim, after Hillsborough County detectives say they found a bag of debit cards that belonged to Jackson.
It's believed that for three months, he was able to obtain names, birth dates, and social security numbers by using his mother's work computer. Her employer, Ace Home Care, has a patient database that Jackson may have accessed, according to the Sheriff's Office.
Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office Cpl. Bruce Crumpler couldn't reveal how detectives found out about the alleged operation, but he says it may have affected people across the country. At this point, it's unknown if money was spent on the cards or if any of Jackson's friends were in on the alleged scheme.
"Now, it's not so much money that we need to secure. We need to secure people's information," Cpl. Crumpler says. "We need to treat that information like it's cash because that's basically what it is."
10 News spoke with a corporate director from Ace Home Care, who would only tell us that the company is cooperating with the investigation and will notify clients.
"You're kidding," said Jackson's neighbor, Anne Nicol, upon hearing what Jackson is accused of. "I have friends whose lives have been ruined by people taking their social security number."
According to Amol Nirgudkar, CPA and Managing Partner with Reliance Consulting, this case is one example of a growing problem throughout Tampa Bay.
"We are a lot more efficient than we used to be, but [technology] has also brought on the ease to commit a crime," he says.
So what can you take away from this? Nirgudkar urges people to avoid sending or saving personal information in emails or texts, and to even leave birth dates off Facebook. He advises people to collect yearly credit reports or become a member of an identity protection service like Lifelock.
Crumpler says people should also leave social security numbers off most forms, with the exception of IRS documents.
Follow 10 News Reporter Ashley Porter on twitter @ashleyreporter