ID theft a growing problem in Palmetto State

Identity theft is on the rise in South Carolina

complaints about identity theft went up 15 percent in just one year, according to State Treasurer Curtis Loftis

Loftis says South Carolina ranks 20th in the nation for identity theft complaints, up from 29th in the past year.

Kathy Graham, president of the Coastal Carolina Better Business Bureau thinks she knows why.

Graham said there are many new ways to capture people's personal information these days, through e-mails, websites and texting.

"And the reason I think we see a lot of it here in South Carolina is we have a lot of trusting people in our community. Unfortunately, they can fall into this kind of scam and once you lose your identity, it's a very tough thing to get back," Graham said.

South Carolina's senior citizen population keeps going up and Graham said they are often the victims of identity theft. But she said people on the other end of the age spectrum are increasingly being targeted, too.

"Children's Social Security cards are being compromised and they don't find out until they go to get that credit card when they go off to college."

To help prevent identity theft, Graham said one answer could come from your computer. Your personal information that's on paper is what gets stolen most often, from your mailbox or garbage, so she said it's a good idea to pay your bills online.

"You know the site, you know that it's secure before you put the information in, and once you can validate and affirm that it is, pay your bills that way, stop the paper bills," she said.

At the same time, you should make sure the websites you use are well guarded. Look for https - the "s" means secure - on the website's tool bar.

Also, be creative with your password. Graham suggests putting dollar signs or pound signs in your password to make it harder for identity thieves to figure out.

She said checking your credit report regularly to look for unusual charges is a good idea. When you change the batteries on your smoke detectors twice a year, check your credit report, too.

The Associated Press contributed to this report