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Identity Theft: How it Happens, Its Impact on Victims, and Legislative Solutions

NCJ Number
Beth Givens
Date Published
July 2000
13 pages
This paper explains the nature and extent of identity theft, ways in which identity thieves obtain Social Security numbers and credit card account numbers, impacts on victims, and recommended legislative and industry approaches to prevent identity theft and help victims restore their financial situation.
Identity theft includes use of another person's identity to purchase goods, as well as committing crimes in someone else's name and thereby giving that person a criminal record. An estimated 500,000 to 700,000 persons are victims of identity theft each year. They obtain identifying information by stealing a wallet or purse, taking credit card slips from the trash, obtaining information from dishonest employees, and other means. Victims receive little help from the organizations who issued the identifying information. Law enforcement does not investigate many such crimes. Victims often spend large amounts of time to address the issue. Federal and State laws make identity theft a crime. However, more laws are needed to create incentives for the credit industry to change how they do business. Legislation also needs to address the needs of victims who have wrongful criminal records. Lists of print resources and web sites regarding identity theft