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Identity Fraud Trends and Patterns: Building a Data-Based Foundation for Proactive Enforcement

NCJ Number
Gary R. Gordon Ed.D.; Donald J. Rebovich Ph.D.; Kyung-Seok Choo Ph.D.; Judith B. Gordon MLS
Date Published
October 2007
82 pages
The purpose of this federally funded project is to identify patterns and trends of identity theft, specifically identity theft offenders, so that public law enforcement and private sector security departments will have added knowledge to apply to a proactive means of preventing this insidious crime.
This study of closed Secret Service cases provides empirical evidence about identity theft in the United States from a law enforcement point of view and can be extrapolated to local and State law enforcement. It focuses on identity theft offenders setting it apart from previous surveys and research centered on identity theft victims. The analysis of the cases revealed that while identity theft can occur anywhere, it was concentrated in the Northeast and South. The results show that identity theft is a crime that minorities are just as apt to commit as Whites. The number of younger offenders, female offenders, and female African-American offenders in these crimes is noteworthy. Offenders can be separated into two groups: those who engaged in identity theft practices as isolated events as opportunities presented themselves and those who actively pursued identity theft as part of a property theft criminal career. Analysis of the methods employed by the offenders showed that Internet and/or other technological devices were used in approximately half of the cases. The case analysis results refute some presumptions about the relationship between the offender and the victim. The typical identity theft criminal took advantage of those not personally known to him/her. The medium loss incurred by identity theft victims was $31,356. In general, the more offenders involved in the case, the higher the victim loss. In addition to individuals, the financial services industry was just as likely to be victimized as an individual, with a wide spectrum of methods used. The closed Secret Services cases in this study funded by the U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Assistance provided reliable information collected objectively. Recommendations are presented and based on the use of the findings. Figures, appendix and references