Identity Theft Research Review: Recording and Reporting Identity Theft

According to Federal Trade Commission research, older persons and those less educated are likely to take longer to report identify theft and are less likely to report it at all. This research also suggests that the longer it takes to discover the crime and report it to the relevant authority, the greater the loss and suffering of the victim, and, from a criminal justice perspective, the poorer the chance of successful disposition of the case.

In contrast to FTC's extensive database of consumer complaints and victimization, the criminal justice system lacks any such information related to identity theft. No criminal justice agency maintains a national database of the number of identity theft cases reported to it or those disposed of by arrest and subsequent prosecution. The FBI and the U.S. Secret Service have reported numbers of cases of identity theft that they have investigated in recent years, but these number only in the hundreds, and without State, multiagency, and local data, no means is currently available to determine the amount of identity theft confronted by the criminal justice system.

Criminal justice authorities, especially local police, have been thwarted in recording and reporting identity theft crimes by three significant issues:

  1. The difficulty of defining identity theft because of its extensive involvement in other crimes. Most police departments lack an established mechanism to record identity-theft-related incidents as separate crimes. This is exacerbated by the lack of training of police officers in identifying and recording information concerning other crimes that also involve identity theft.
  2. The cross-jurisdictional character of identity theft, which may span several geographically distant jurisdictions. This has led to jurisdictional confusion as to who is responsible for recording the crime. Although the International Association of Chiefs of Police has tried to resolve this issue, significant hurdles must still be overcome.
  3. Depending on the type of identity theft, individuals are more likely to report their victimization to their bank, credit card issuing agency, or another financial agency rather than the police. Thus, a genuine issue arises as to the extent to which police are the appropriate agency to deal with this type of victimization, when many financial agencies are in a better position to attend to the victim's problems and even to investigate the crimes (which many do). For this reason, police agencies have strong motivation to avoid taking on the added responsibility for dealing with these crimes.
Date Created: June 7, 2010