Study Examines Different Facets Of Identity Theft

To better understand the threat that identity fraud and theft pose to personal and national security, the Center for Identity Management and Information Protection (CIMIP) has published the first-ever study of closed United States Secret Service cases involving identity theft. CIMIP reviewed 517 closed cases which took place between 2000 and 2006. In the vast majority of the cases, federal jurisdiction was established by 18 USC 1028 (Identity Fraud), and 18 USC 1029 (Access Device Fraud). This is the first time the U.S. Secret Service has allowed review of its closed case files on identity theft and fraud. Findings

The results were divided into three categories: the crime, the victims, and the offenders. Below are some of the key findings.

The Crime:

  • In a majority of the cases, the identity theft facilitated another crime, usually fraud or larceny.
  • Organized group activity took place in 42.4 percent of the cases, involving 2-45 offenders.
  • In approximately half of the cases, the Internet and/or other technologies were used in the commission of the crime.
  • Within the half with no use of the internet or technology, non-technological methods, such as change of address or dumpster diving, were used in 20 percent of the cases.
  • In cases where the point of compromise was determined for stealing personal identifying information (there were 274 such cases), a business (service, retail, financial industry, corporation) was the point of compromise 50 percent of the time. A family member or friend was the point of compromise in only 16 percent of those 274 cases.
  • Approximately a third of the cases involved identity theft through employment, and 43.8 percent of those cases occurred in retail (stores, car dealerships, gas stations, casinos, restaurants, hotels and hospitals).

The Victims:

  • Over a third of the victims were financial industry organizations – banks, credit unions and credit card companies.
  • Individuals accounted for 34.3 percent of the victims.
  • 59 percent of the victims did not know the offenders; only 5 percent of the victims were related to the offender.

The Offenders:

  • 42.5 percent of the offenders were between the ages of 25-34 (at the time the case was opened); 18.5 percent were between the ages of 18 and 24; only 6 percent were above 50 years of age.
  • One-third of the offenders were female; of those, two-thirds were black.
  • 58 percent of the offenders were black; 38.3 percent were white.
  • 24.1 percent of the offenders were born outside of the United States.
  • 71 percent of the offenders had no arrest history.

“Having access to these closed files for purposes of studying identity theft should prove invaluable to law enforcement officials and policy makers,” said Gary Gordon, founder and Executive Director of the Center for Identity Management and Information Protection, as well as the Economic Crime Institute (ECI) at Utica College. “These findings shed new light on how identity theft related crimes take place, what motivates the perpetrators, and who is being victimized, and dispels some common myths about identity theft. This study provides lawmakers and law enforcement officials with concrete data which they can use to develop policy, allocate resources and train officials.”

“The information revolution has intensified focus on our personal and financial information as a valuable commodity. Whether information is being collected and brokered by a legitimate company or stolen by an identity thief, it has value,” said Secret Service Assistant Director of Investigations Michael Stenger. “By working closely with CIMIP, we are able to gain insight on patterns and trends we can share with other federal, state, and local law enforcement representatives, as well as international police agencies. This partnership approach creates a comprehensive network of intelligence sharing, resource sharing and technical expertise that bridges jurisdictional boundaries.”

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