This paper defines identity theft and methods used in its perpetration, presents statistics on its prevalence in the United States, addresses the role of victim service providers in assisting identity theft victims, considers the impact of identity theft on victims, and reviews how to respond to and recover from identity theft.
The Federal Trade Commission defines "identity theft" as "when someone uses your personal information without your permission to commit fraud or other crimes." In 2010, an estimated 8.1 million adults (3.5 percent of the population) were victims of identity fraud, a decline from approximately 11 million in 2009. Identity theft occurs when thieves steal personal identifying information, using both low tech and high tech means. Victims of identity theft experience a range of problems. They may be denied credit, employment, public benefits, driver's license renewal, and medical care; and they may be arrested for crimes they did not commit, be sued for crimes they did not commit, and be harassed by creditors for debts they did not incur. It is important for victim service providers to know about identity theft and be aware that victims of other crimes are at risk for becoming victims of identity theft. Victim service providers should assist identity theft victims in preserving their rights in the process of a criminal investigation and prosecution, as well as assist victims in recovering their identities. In its discussion of how to respond to identity theft, this paper discusses victims' rights in the criminal justice system, the provisions of the Fair Credit Reporting Act and how it can be used to assist identity-theft victims, reporting identity theft to the authorities, and removing impostor accounts from a victim's credit history. The paper also discusses particular types of identity theft and preventing revictimization. A listing of resources for identity-theft victims is included. 21 notes
Date Published: September 1, 2012