OJP's Resources for Fighting Identity Theft
Regina B. Schofield, February 2007
Data from OJP’s Bureau of Justice Statistics tell us that some 3.6 million American households experienced identity theft during a single six-month period in 2004. Moreover, the most recent national survey from the Federal Trade Commission found that almost 10 million people were victims of identity theft during the course of a year. Victims reported losing $5 billion in out-of-pocket expenses, while losses to businesses and financial institutions totaled almost $48 billion.
Victims of identity theft are citizens who have had bank accounts wiped out, credit histories ruined, and jobs and valuable possessions taken away. In some cases, they have even been arrested for crimes they did not commit. The financial toll exacted by identity theft can be crippling, and the emotional trauma can be as devastating as many of the most violent offenses. Far from being a victimless crime, identity theft has profound and often tragic consequences for those affected by it.
In May 2006, President Bush established a federal interagency task force to tackle this serious and widespread problem. Co-chaired by Attorney General Gonzales and Federal Trade Commission chairwoman Deborah Majoras, the task force is coordinating efforts to raise awareness of identity theft and to develop a strategy for preventing, detecting, and prosecuting identity theft crimes. Hand in hand with that effort is the OJP Identity Theft Initiative, a working group facilitated by my office and involving OJP and other Department of Justice components. The working group meets regularly to discuss issues surrounding victimization, enforcement, training, funding, prevention, outreach, and research. It examines current trends and policies and makes recommendations on how to leverage our resources to address the issues related to identity theft.
OJP has been actively involved in raising awareness of and preventing identity theft and helping its victims. One of our successful programs is the “Identity Theft Verification Passport Program,” which is funded by our Office for Victims of Crime and operated by the Ohio Attorney General’s Office. The program provides victims a means of verifying to law enforcement and creditors that their identities have been stolen so that they will not be charged with crimes they did not commit nor penalized for credit violations for which they were not responsible.
This and other OJP efforts are part of an overall commitment by President Bush, his Administration, and the Department of Justice to address the problem of identity theft. I encourage you to visit OJP’s Identity Theft Web page to learn more about the programs and research projects here at OJP dealing with identity theft. And visit the Federal Trade Commission’s Web site to find out how you can help prevent identity theft and fight back on behalf of those who have been its victims.