The problem of identity theft has become one of the fastest emerging phenomenal crimes in America and has inevitably been increasing exponentially worldwide (McDonald, 2006). It is a fraudulent act of acquiring the legally certified personal identifiers and other personal information essential to carry out impersonation to obtain merchandises, services and crimes (McDonald, 2006). And being a high-reward low-risk activity and an equal-opportunity crime, it could victimize anyone regardless of age, class and race (McDonald, 2006).
It is likely a full package undertaking which offers an easier way of committing crimes, while providing lucrative returns and living in anonymity and minimal jeopardy of detection (McDonald, 2006).
Identity theft is far different from a mere crime. It is a tailored crime from established crimes of forgery, check and credit card fraud, counterfeiting, computer scam, impersonation, and pick-pocketing (McDonald, 2006). However, the most challenging face of identity theft is its potential to international terrorism (McDonald, 2006).
Accordingly, identity theft crimes are under the jurisdiction of various agencies. Among the agencies associated to such crime includes the local police, FBI, Postal Inspection Service, Secret Service, Homeland Security, motor vehicle departments, and local government agencies (McDonald, 2006).
Various coping mechanism were later on initiated. Conversely, police, victim assistance advocates, and private agencies worked independently, without looking at each others roles or collaborating to develop a wide-range and valuable means of answering and counteracting such crime (McDonald, 2006).
With the United States Congress’ enactment of the Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act of 1998, Pub. L. 105-318, 112 Stat. 3007, a basic foundation on identity theft was established. It classified identity theft as a federal crime when a person deliberately uses credentials of another person, with no legal authority to commit or aid any illegal action that normally constitutes a violation of Federal, State or local law (McDonald, 2006). It also called for the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to institute a clearinghouse for information and statistics on identity theft (Dworaczyk, 2004).
However, this federal statute rarely prosecutes violations of state laws. Most laws regarding such crimes focuses on three subjects such as criminal penalties for particular offenses, prerequisites for the credit industry to incorporate specific information in credit reports or to limit the right to credit and credit reports, and personal data confidentiality (Dworaczyk, 2004). Existing laws respond to identity theft by providing criminal penalties for particular offenses.
And such laws and suggestions for further changes are largely intended to trim down incidents of identity theft by enhancing identification of cases during such occurrence, and to facilitate further investigation and prosecution (Dworaczyk, 2004). In December 2003, another effort of the Congress to solve identity theft marked through the enactment of a law on credit transactions (Dworaczyk, 2004). In July 2004, the federal government furthered the identity theft laws by amending additional and extended prison sentences in relation to particular federal crimes (Dworaczyk, 2004).
Identity theft crime hold an utmost punishment of 15 years imprisonment, a fine, and criminal forfeiture of private property used to execute the offense. As of June 2001, 43 states had already enacted statutes creating identity theft a crime. Such statutes enforce various penalties for identity theft. Normally, the penalties are base on the total dollar amount of damage resulting from the theft. Thefts concerning minor losses are considered as misdemeanors, while larger financial losses are regarded as felonies of different degrees (Foley, 2003).
Local police ought to verify whether such a statute exists and what that statute provides. Other states are also taking into consideration of having related laws on such crime. Victims of such crime are also protected under federal and state law. Victims are entitled to have protections from being accountable for illegal undertakings, or other illegitimate behavior conducted by identity thieves (Newman, 2004). More so, they also received rights concerning the truthfulness of their credit reports. In Texas, laws addressing identity theft centers on compelling agencies to provide security alerts and freezes.
Such action increases the avenue for identity theft prosecution and limiting showing credit card and Social Security numbers (Dworaczyk, 2004). In Connecticut, the state enacted the Public Act 03-156 in 2003, which forced regulated penalties for identity theft violations, established measures to aid victims; and required businesses to modify certain procedures to hinder identity theft. Other statutes relevant with identity theft are the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act of 2003 (FACTA), and the Identity Theft Penalty Enhancement Act (Dworaczyk, 2004).
The FCRA (Codified at 15 U. S. C. § 1681 et seq. ), standardizes the compilation, dissemination, and use of consumer credit information. However, the foundation of customer rights to credit was structured and formulated alongside with the FDCPA or the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. And being an amendment to FCRA, the FACTA, Pub. L. 108-159, 111 Stat. 1952. , provided provisions to help lessen identity theft crimes, such as the capacity for a person to put alerts on their credit records if such crime is assumed, thus making falsified applications harder to execute.
The Identity Theft Penalty Enhancement Act, Pub. L. 108-275, 118 Stat. 831, on the other hand, characterizes penalties for identity theft crimes (18 U. S. C. Sec. 1028A (a)). It also furthers providing penalties for those that hold information in conducting the crime, not considering if they themselves essentially use the information to take an identity. In 2003, Chief Darrel Stephens of North Carolina Police Department conducted a survey on the degree of preparedness of major police organizations.
It showed that there were no standardized and effective law enforcement practices in the rising cases of identity theft (McDonald, 2006). In February of the same year, the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS), together with the Division of Public Safety Leadership (DPSL) at Johns Hopkins University, and the Major Cities Chiefs Association (MCCA) conducted a project to scrutinize identity theft issues and provide recommendations for a national strategy for policy makers and to classify best procedures for practitioners (McDonald, 2006).
The components that comprise the national strategy for law enforcement includes specific actions on the following areas: partnerships and collaboration, reporting procedures, victim assistance, public awareness, legislation, information protection and training (McDonald, 2006). Moreover, in May 2006, an Executive Order signed by the President emphasized the creation of an Identity Theft Task Force, focusing to acquire a harmonized strategic plan to fight identity theft.
Specifically, it was created to provide sound recommendations on improving the efficacy of the federal government’s actions in areas of recognition, prevention, detection, and prosecution (McDonald, 2006). It is notable that substantive efforts were carried out by the government in combating the growing number of identity theft crimes. Nonetheless, a lot of changes and reforms ought to be done. And enhancing the training for law enforcement officers and prosecutors was just one part of the picture to acquire a full understanding of the problem of identity theft.
With a very limited data on law enforcement efforts regarding identity theft, it would be difficult to achieve a better view on the nature of the crime. The working unit then considered incorporating further surveys and statistics like the National Crime Victimization Survey. It also looked to evaluate U. S. Sentencing Commission data on related cases, pursue federal prosecutions and the quantity of resources spent, and perform target surveys to enrich law enforcement information on identity theft response and prevention activities (Dworaczyk, 2004).
It is indeed impossible to have all personal information confidential; therefore, eradicating completely such crime of identity theft would be difficult. Newman (2004) identified local factors that could be done to minimize or prevent identity theft, which is divided into two sections: prevention and victim assistance. In terms of prevention, among the specific responses include the following: 1. Improving business understanding of their accountability to guard employee and client records.
3. Working hand-in-hand with government and various organizations to watch over private information. Although, awareness on identity theft had increased considerably, organizations should still support efforts to lessen the function of social security numbers as identifiers, which is very usual on health insurance cards. Agency personnel ought to be regularly reminded of the possible risks in negligent use of private information. 4. Operating with local banks to persuade credit card issuers to accept better security measures.
Working closely with local banks would make it simple to set up actions for victims to repair the harm done, and have the accounts working again. Influence local banks and businesses to pressure credit card companies to verify credit card purchases by asking for additional ID, encourage customers to have passwords or attach photographs or other authentication indicators on credit accounts, and adopting better identity verification when changes are indicated with his or her credit report. 5. Tracking delivery.
Product and document deliveries are fulcrum to identity theft. Building a good relationship with delivery companies and postal inspectors could be helpful to trace items to thieves. Post office and delivery companies could instruct staff members to take note of deliveries to houses that are unoccupied or up for trade, notice license renewal and credit card reports that turn to unknown addresses and also to preserve various application records. However, in terms of victim assistance, possible actions could be summarized into:
1. Moving with the victim. Being an emotionally and psychologically upsetting crime, an open communication between the victims and the police could be the key. Law enforcers ought to recognize how consumers are protected, and offer victims with educational materials that could clarify their rights and the ways on how to assert them. Police must write an incident report and provide the victim a copy of his own to avoid any trouble in filing an affidavit. The victim should acquire the Identity Theft Victim Guide.
This summarizes how to prepare for the investigation procedure and the possible steps to take. Also, propose a written draft of the case to be prepared by the victim, which includes all the relevant information that could be used. Update also the victim on how the procedure of being “behind the scenes” of a fraud investigation would be like. More so, ensure that the victims comprehend and exercise their rights under the federal laws and record the complaint information into the FTC’s Identity Theft Data Clearinghouse. 2. Formulating a plan to avoid or curtail the harm of identity theft.
In cases, where personal records or employee and client databases have been violated, police and other law enforcers must operate promptly to lessen the opportunity the thief has to exploit the stolen identities. Employees could be given information packets on technical know-how’s to read credit reports and safeguard their identities and minimize further damage. Workshops for employees also provide helpful information. REFERENCE IACP National Law Enforcement Policy Center. 2002. Identity Theft. Concepts and Issues Paper. Washington St. , Alexandria. Economic Crime Institute.
2003. Identity Fraud: A Critical National and Global Threat. White Paper. A Joint Project of the Economic Crime Institute of Utica College and LexisNexis.. http://www. ecii. edu/identity_fraud. pdf (accessed June 8, 2007) Graeme R. Newman, 2004. Identity Theft. Problem-Oriented Guides for Police Problem- Specific Guides Series No. 25. Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, U. S. Department of Justice, http://www. cops. usdoj. gov/mime/open. pdf? Item=1271 (accessed June 8, 2007) Kelly Dworaczyk, 2004. Combating Identity Theft. Focus Report.
House Research Organization. Texas House of Representative, http://www. hro. house. state. tx. us/focus/identity78-18. pdf (accessed June 8, 2007) L. Foley. 2003. Enhancing Law Enforcement–Identity Theft Communication. Identity Theft Resource Center. http://www.. idtheftcenter. org (accessed June 8, 2007) Phyllis P. McDonald, 2006. A national strategy to combat identity theft. Johns Hopkins University. Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, U. S. Department of Justice, http://www. securitymanagement. com/library/identity_theft1006. pdf (accessed June 8, 2007)