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Policing Privacy: Law Enforcement’s Response to Identity Theft

NCJ Number
Jennette Gayer
Date Published
May 2003
23 pages
Interviews were conducted with law enforcement officers from departments in cities with high identity-theft rates in order to assist in the development of policies that can prevent this crime.
Almost every officer (27 out of the 28 interviewed) reported a perception of an increase in identity-theft cases within his/her jurisdiction. Officers identified 11 common sources of identity theft: mail theft, dumpster-diving, unscrupulous employees, Internet fraud, stolen/lost wallet, burglary, friends/relations, phone scams, spying on victims as they fill out applications, unethical use of public documents, and medical cards with confidential information. Mail theft was the top concern. Officers generally believed that potential victims do not have control over how their privacy is safeguarded by those who have legal access to their personal information. On average, the officers believed that only 11 percent of identity-theft cases handled by their departments were cleared. More than 85 percent of the officers believed that credit lenders should have stricter requirements that will prevent credit from being extended to identity-thieves. Other recommendations by the officers were to improve lenders' cooperation in police investigations; enact more severe penalties for identity theft; further develop interagency databases that will facilitate multijurisdictional cooperation; and facilitate the investigation and prosecution of identity theft by clarifying and standardizing jurisdictional issues. This report advises that in spite of the criminalizing of identity theft, reports of its incidence doubled in 2002. This suggests that credit agencies, banks, and other issuers of credit must end practices that aid identity thieves. Appended list of officers interviewed and the interview questions