Victim Assistance: Lessons From the Field
Developing an Intake Process for Case Management
A basic intake process can be performed by a trained non-lawyer, who collects contact information and some demographic information including age, gender, primary language, ethnicity, and approximate household income. Information of this nature is helpful to the grantee for sustainability planning. For example, some funding sources require means testing, and being able to provide information about the number of low-income victims in a geographic area can lead to the award of funding to provide services to those victims. VICARS uses demographic information to spot trends among victim populations to see whether certain types of people are being targeted within its service area. In one case, several victims who were school employees from one school district called VICARS for help. The organization was able to assist the callers in investigating and ultimately learning that their employer had dumped payroll records, which led to their identities being stolen.
Another reason to collect basic information about each case of identity theft is because the extreme emotions and overwhelming nature of this crime often make it difficult for many victims to tell their story concisely and in an organized way, VICARS developed a set of four intake questions designed to assist victims in organizing their thoughts:
- When did you realize that you were a victim of identity theft?
- How did you find out that you were a victim?
- What identifying information was stolen or used, and how was it used?
- Do you have any idea who committed the crime or how it happened?
In thinking about the answers to these questions, victims are able to organize their thoughts in a cohesive way that allows them to put together a more complete picture of their situation. Intake workers can be trained to follow up these basic questions with questions that probe more deeply into individual circumstances.
Volunteers and staff at organizations providing services to victims of identity theft and fraud should receive substantive in-house training in handling these cases before taking telephone calls from victims. Training might cover crime victims’ rights at the federal and state levels, federal and state civil laws that are relevant to identity theft victims, and how to help victims deal with the emotional impact of the crime. OVC TTAC’s online trainings for crime victim advocates is also an excellent resource for victim service providers.