Victim Assistance: Lessons From the Field
Public Awareness and Outreach
It’s important to get the word out about how your organization can inform the community and help victims of identity theft. Several of the grantees increased public awareness by developing ID-specific brochures, PowerPoint presentations, videos, and Web sites with downloadable forms and fact sheets.
- Maryland Crime Victims’ Resource Center, Inc.
- Atlanta Victim Assistance’s Project SAFE
- Building Public Awareness—VICARS
- Identity Theft Resource Center
MCVRC created a brochure designed specifically for helping identity theft and fraud victims. The brochure briefly describes what to do if you are a victim of identity theft (e.g., filing a fraud alert, filing a police report, closing accounts) and how MCVRC can help. The brochure proved to be one of the most popular handouts at community events because so many people have either been a victim or know someone who has been a victim of identity theft.
MCVRC suggests that once a victim service organization has developed an identity theft brochure, it may want to distribute the brochure to local police stations, senior centers, and libraries. It is also useful to send a cover letter and the brochure to other service providers, explaining how the organization is assisting victims of identity theft and fraud.
In August 2009, Atlanta Victim Assistance launched Project SAFE—a coalition of public and private organizations committed to arming citizens of Atlanta with the information, tools, and resources needed to combat identity theft and protect them from becoming victims.
Based on research on identity theft trends within the City of Atlanta, AVA leadership and staff identified three target audiences for the media campaign: millennials (Generation Y), baby boomers, and seniors. These target demographic groups are vulnerable to identity theft for different reasons, and their media consumption habits are also often dissimilar. The campaign is expressly tailored to reflect those differences.
The centerpiece of Project SAFE is "Fight Identity Theft," a public service ad campaign that uses promotional materials featuring a series of real‐life identity theft victims, armed with boxing gloves to symbolize how these victims took action and have emerged as victors. (Visit the Project SAFE Web page for more about the initiative and to download consumer ID theft forms, brochures, press materials, and newsletters; watch a video; or take an interactive ID theft quiz.)
AVA used the following means to publicize its Project SAFE campaign and they can be adapted for use by other organizations. The organization ran ads on Atlanta’s Rapid Transit Authority rail system for 30 days; placed ads on Google’s search engine for 3 months; and made use of social media like Facebook to encourage interest in the campaign. The organization also added an interactive page on its Web site for the campaign that includes links to its partner organizations and to credit reporting agencies, a hotline for consumers, as well as the materials noted above for downloading. (See "Tools/Resources for Victims" section.)
VICARS developed brochures, a Web site, a self-help video, and a consumer guide (PDF 2 mb) that could be used for outreach and building public awareness about both its services and identity theft in general. Initial outreach was targeted to persons, agencies, and organizations that would be likely to encounter victims, including police departments, sheriff departments, U.S. Attorney Generals’ field offices, and Social Security offices. VICARS also conducted outreach to agencies and nonprofit organizations likely to encounter at-risk populations such as older individuals.
The organization also made presentations at senior nutrition centers, community centers, crime victim rights events, financial fitness events, assisted living and senior living centers, and other community events. Presentations focused on general awareness of identity crimes, changes in habit necessary to avoid victimization, scam-proofing, how to report an identity theft crime, how to recover from identity theft, and what resources are available to victims.
ITRC participated in numerous community events, presentations and trainings. To meet growing national needs, ITRC developed and provided a general Identity Theft 101 presentation for use by law enforcement agencies from around the country. In addition, a handout was made available to any community group or law enforcement agency. This handout outlines the first steps necessary for a victim of identity theft. ITRC worked with other national nonprofit agencies, such as the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, in efforts to further drive the educational efforts on what to do if you are a victim of identity theft, scams, and other identity theft-related issues.