ID Theft a Rapidly Growing Crime

Contributing Writer

A couple weeks ago, a friend of the author of this article from Oklahoma and an owner of a successful international business, Linda Mayers (name changed), became a victim of identification theft. A criminal from the Eastern part of the United States had stolen information about her business address and account printed checks and wrote a $2,000 check on her name. When the check cleared Linda’s account, it was a shock for her and her husband-business partner. The Mayers called their bank, but response to their complaint was slow. They reported the ID theft to police. The bank account was closed for about a week, and the business incurred losses.

“We were lucky to receive a money transfer from our customer overseas right before the theft; otherwise, the image of our firm could have been damaged at the international level,” Linda says.

The number of ID theft victims, such as Linda Mayers, increases annually. Identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes with almost 10 million reported victims in 2004. The incidence of victimization increased 11-20 percent between 2001-2002 and 80 percent between 2002-2003. Last year, big companies such as T-Mobile and ChoicePoint Inc. were hacked. Even superstar Paris Hilton did not avoid the crime—her personal photos, text messages and telephone number were stolen from her personal directory and spread on the Internet.

There are different scenarios of ID theft.

Financial ID theft – This type of case usually focuses on a person’s name and Social Security number. This person may apply for telephone service, credit cards or loans, buy merchandise, lease cars or apartments.

Criminal ID theft – The imposter in this crime provides the victim’s information instead of his or her own when stopped by law enforcement. Eventually when the warrant for arrest is issued, it is the name of the person issued the citation—you.

Identity cloning-In this crime the imposter uses the victim’s information to establish a new life. They work and live as you. Examples: illegal aliens, criminals avoiding warrants, people hiding from abusive situations or becoming a “new person” to leave behind a poor work and financial history.

Business or commercial ID theft – Businesses are also victims. Typically the perpetrator gets credit cards or checking accounts in the name of the business. The business finds out when unhappy suppliers send collection notices or their business rating score is affected.

A recovery from ID theft is a painful process. Victims now spend an average of 600 hours recovering from this crime. The business community loses between $40,000 – $92,000 per name in fraudulent charges. The executive office for U.S. Attorneys estimates that the cost of prosecuting a white-collar crime case was $11,443. The Secret Service estimates the average cost per financial crime investigation is $15,000, and FBI investigation, $20,000. Victims of ID theft struggle with the impact of the crime for years. It includes increased insurance or credit card fees, inability to find a job, battling collection agencies and issuers who refuse to clear records.

In order to prevent the fast growing crime, through funding by the Bureau of Justice Assistance, U.S. Department of Justice, NCPC developed an ID theft prevention initiative to help consumers protect themselves from the crime. The Tulsa Police Department has a website, which has a link “Public Education” connecting to another website There, consumers can find information about ID thefts, such as computer hacking on internet and scam e-mails; tips how to prevent ID theft; agencies where anybody can buy a book or video on this subject, etc. Another very good website is and belongs to a non-profit organization Identity Theft Resource Center, with a central office in San Diego, Calif. The website has information on all aspects: detailed tips how to prevent ID theft, what to do if one is a victim, laws, etc.

A study, conducted by the Identity Theft Resource Center, show that the majority of ID theft criminals are repeat offenders. Other convictions include substance abuse, narcotic trafficking, violent crime, robbery and immigration issues. Another poll (Harris Interactive) found that 91 percent of respondents do not see an “end to the tunnel” and expect a heavy increase in victimization. Both the American government and public should work better on developing and supporting educational programs preventing ID theft. A special scientific center should be opened which would create new, advanced technologies and know-how to fight ID theft.

Updated 07-25-2005

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