Remarks of Mary Lou Leary, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General
Office of Justice Programs
Forum On Child Identity Theft
Tuesday, July 12, 2011
Thank you, David. I'm very pleased to be here. I'd like to echo David and Maneesha's welcome and to thank all of you for participating in today's forum. I know we have some of the best minds in the field here today, and I'm looking forward to a vibrant discussion.
The issue of child identity theft is one that we're only beginning to become aware of and understand. We know a lot about identity theft generally, but we're really only starting to see the extent to which identity thieves target children - and the tremendous damage they can cause.
Our friends at the Federal Trade Commission tell us that, in 2006, more than 10,000 identity theft complaints were filed on behalf of victims under the age of 18. That's up from about 6,500 cases in 2003. And one study found that 5 percent of children had a credit report with their Social Security numbers and that the average debt was over $12,000. In many cases, these victims don't even know what "credit" and "debt" mean - and in some cases, they're not even old enough to form the words.
The Attorney General has placed a high priority on protecting Americans from the kind of fraud that can be perpetrated through identity theft. He's particularly concerned about crimes that target children. These victims often can't speak out or stand up for themselves. They need us to ensure their safety and well-being.
My agency - the Office of Justice Programs - plays a central role in improving our response to these crimes. We've supported media campaigns, research projects, technology evaluations, and training to help law enforcement officers, children's advocates, and others detect and respond to identity theft.
Our Identity Theft Working Group has been working with the FTC over the last year to shine a brighter light on the problem of child identity theft and to search for solutions. Many of our Working Group members are here today, and I'd like to ask them to stand, if they would.
I'd also like to recognize and thank Joye Frost, the Acting Director of our Office for Victims of Crime. Joye has been a huge supporter of our work in this area. I especially want to thank her for directing her office's resources to co-sponsoring this forum.
And speaking of resources, we have several available at the resource table, including a literature review and information about an innovative - and award-winning - on-line training that OVC developed to improve the response of victim service providers to identity theft victims. I encourage you to visit the table and take a look at what we have to offer.
Today, we're beginning an important dialogue on a subject of great concern to all of us in this room. I'm pleased that the Department of Justice is helping to jump-start this conversation, and I'm glad that we have so many willing and knowledgeable participants in this room. I'm sure that, by brainstorming and working together, we'll be able to find workable solutions to child identity theft that are grounded in research and effective practices.
I look forward to the discussions today and to working with all of you as we move forward to address this issue.
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