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Identity Theft: A Fast-Growing Crime

NCJ Number
FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin Volume: 69 Issue: 8 Dated: August 2000 Pages: 8-13
Matthew L. Lease; Tod W. Burke Ph.D.
John E. Ott
Date Published
August 2000
6 pages
Thieves can now steal personal information and use another person's identity to commit numerous forms of fraud, and identity theft affects 350,000 to 500,000 victims annually.
Identity theft involves the criminal act of assuming another person's name, address, social security number, and date of birth in order to perpetrate fraud. The Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act of 1998 enables law enforcement agencies to investigate identity theft crimes and the associated fraud that often results. In 1997, for example, the U.S. Secret Service investigated 9,455 cases of identity theft with losses totaling $745 million. In the past decade, the U.S. Secret Service has observed an increase in financial institution, credit, and computer fraud facilitated by identity theft. The crime of identity theft can occur in many ways. Identity thieves scavenge through garbage, steal and redirect mail, use database internal access, and surf the Internet for personal information. Law enforcement agencies should advise citizens to report identity theft immediately, although it may take victims months or years to restore their credit and reputation. Law enforcement agencies, businesses, and consumers have an equal responsibility in preventing identity theft. In particular, law enforcement agencies can assist in the prevention of identity theft by providing corrective steps and helpful tips that allow citizens to avoid being victimized by identity theft. 9 endnotes and 1 photograph