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Exploring the Crime of Identity Theft: Prevalence, Clearance Rates, and Victim/Offender Characteristics

NCJ Number
Journal of Criminal Justice Volume: 33 Issue: 1 Dated: January/February 2005 Pages: 19-29
Stuart F.H. Allison; Amie M. Schuck; Kim Michelle Lersch
Kent B. Joscelyn
Date Published
January 2005
11 pages
This study examined the prevalence and characteristics of identity theft and investigated claims that identity theft was rising.
Identity theft has been tagged by many government officials as one of the greatest threats to the United States economy. It is defined as the unlawful use of another’s personal identifying information. Identity thieves typically steal people’s identities to commit an assortment of financial crimes, such as taking out loans, credit applications, and taking control of entire financial accounts. The purpose of this study was to examine the magnitude and characteristics of identity theft and determine if government officials’ claims and the media’s portrayal of the substantial rise in identity theft incidents were supported empirically. A case study methodology was selected which involved the analysis and description of “real life” circumstances. The study examined all the relevant identity theft cases investigated from a large municipal police department’s database over a 2-year and 11-month period between January 2000 and December 2002. A typical offender was African-American, female, unemployed, working alone, and was unknown to the victims, who were typically White and male. Study results indicated that from 2000 and 2001 identity theft increased by 105 percent and increased by approximately 39 percent between 2001 and 2002. The study found support for the expressed belief by the media and government officials that identity theft was a growing crime and that identity theft appeared to be larger than those of other theft-oriented offenses. The clearance rate for identity theft was lower than for most other theft-related offenses. In addition, the results indicated that the clearance rate trend for identity theft was decreasing. References


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