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Expanding Services To Reach Victims of Identity Theft and Financial Fraud
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Publication Date: October 2010
NCJ 230590
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Office of Justice ProgramsOffice for Victims of Crime
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Grantee Profiles

With the support of the Office for Victims of Crime, the Identity Theft Resource Center; the Victims Initiative for Counseling, Advocacy, and Restoration of the Southwest; the Maryland Crime Victims’ Resource Center, Inc.; and Atlanta Victim Assistance worked in conjunction with other national and local agencies to serve victims of identity theft and financial fraud. The funding awarded to the four grantees (at the national, regional, state, and local level, respectively) was used to enhance existing practices to provide free assistance to victims of identity theft and financial fraud through increasing direct victim services, encouraging self-advocacy and pro bono attorney development, providing victims with legal representation at the state and federal levels, and increasing public outreach. Each of these grantees offers a wealth of resources for victims, service providers, and the public on identity theft and fraud.

Identity Theft Resource Center

The Identity Theft Resource Center® (ITRC) is a national nonprofit organization "dedicated exclusively to the understanding and prevention of identity theft." ITRC provides free victim and consumer support as well as public education. The center also advises governmental agencies, legislators, law enforcement, and businesses about identity theft.

ITRC educates consumers, provides individual casework services, and disseminates research through its Web site, call center, and publications. The grant from OVC enabled ITRC to significantly expand its efforts on behalf of identity theft victims. In addition to improvements in methods, protocols, and knowledge, the grant enabled ITRC to begin to mentor other victim advocate agencies nationally.

Scope of Services Provided by ITRC

  • Published Identity Theft: The Aftermath 2008, the sixth in a series of studies conducted by ITRC.

  • Maintained and updated more than 280 identity theft/fraud-related documents on its Web site. The site received nearly 20 million hits in 2008 and more than 2.8 million page views.

  • Enhanced Web site navigation by including a Document Catalog button for quick access to fact sheets, solutions, and letter forms; "Help, I’m a Victim of Identity Theft" fast link for victims; victim "Triage Page" with direct links to important documents.

  • Participated in more than 80 presentations and training and community events on identity theft in 2008.

  • Responded to more than 12,900 individuals looking for victim assistance and information.

  • Provided victim advocacy training to various law enforcement agencies and other identity theft victim advocates, as requested.

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Victims Initiative for Counseling, Advocacy, and Restoration of the Southwest

Texas Legal Services Center (TLSC) created the Victims Initiative for Counseling, Advocacy, and Restoration of the Southwest (VICARS) to assist victims of identity theft and financial fraud in a four-state region including Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Colorado. Since its formation in 1977, TLSC has been providing services to poverty law advocates and crime victims, including those victimized by caretakers in residential facilities. The center hosts a statewide legal hot line for seniors.

With funding from OVC, VICARS sought to accomplish several goals: increase the number of victims in the region who are able to recover their identity or money stolen through fraud and to restore their lost credit and increase the number of victim service providers who can offer direct services to victims of identity theft and fraud.

The center focused on individuals ages 18–29 and those who were elderly and/or had disabilities (15% of clients were under the age of 30; 27% were over 60).

During the grant funding period, VICARS responded to the needs of those affected by identity theft and financial fraud by—

  • Providing direct services to approximately 12,000 clients through its dedicated phone line and Web site to aid in their recovery.

  • Developing and disseminating more than 3,000 identity theft recovery toolkits.

  • Developing and disseminating more than 25,000 identity theft brochures.

  • Educating more than 601,000 people on understanding and protecting themselves against identity theft.

  • Training more than 300 service providers and allied professionals to recognize and assist victims.

  • Reaching 597,000 readers, listeners, and viewers through educational media efforts.

  • Collaborating with scores of law enforcement agencies, financial institutions, victim assistance programs, and social service agencies to enhance awareness about and improve competency in addressing this crime.

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Maryland Crime Victims’ Resource Center, Inc.

The Maryland Crime Victims’ Resource Center, Inc. (MCVRC) was founded by Roberta and Vince Roper after their oldest daughter, Stephanie, was brutally murdered in 1982. Over the past 30 years, MCVRC has provided criminal justice education, court accompaniment, therapeutic counseling, support groups, community education, prevention education, legal information and assistance, direct legal representation, policy advocacy, technical assistance for allied professionals and criminal justice agencies, and faith-based referrals. The center has been instrumental in passing more than 70 pieces of state legislation.

MCVRC works with local, state, and national agencies to assist victims of crime. The center trains local law enforcement, recruits and trains pro bono attorneys, directly represents victims, and has created an identity theft and fraud victim resource packet for consumers. MCVRC also worked closely with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the United States’ Attorney’s Office to educate the public about the pervasiveness of these crimes.

With OVC grant funding, MCVRC was able to increase community and state awareness for victims of identity theft and fraud and the victim service providers who help them and to expand their service delivery portfolio to include the provision of direct victim assistance services to victims of identity theft and financial fraud.

During the grant period, MCVRC has implemented a project that involved multiple fronts. The center—

  • Designed a training protocol for law enforcement and other agency sites (click here to see protocol [PDF 1.6 mb]);

  • Provided identity theft and fraud trainings to local and state police;

  • Recruited and trained pro bono attorneys; and

  • Teamed with a local identity theft group that gave presentations to multiple senior centers.

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Atlanta Victim Assistance, Inc.

For more than 25 years, Atlanta Victim Assistance, Inc. (AVA) has provided services to more than 100,000 victims of crimes. As a vital liaison between the City of Atlanta Solicitor’s Office, the City of Atlanta Municipal Court, and the Atlanta Police Department, AVA’s certified, bilingual advocates and highly trained volunteers offer immediate onsite crisis intervention with first responders and offer victim support throughout the criminal justice process to ease the transition from victim to victor.

Atlanta Victim Assistance advocates for the fundamental rights of victims through five distinct approaches: the organization stabilizes lives, meets victims’ emotional needs, reinforces victims’ safety and security, provides courtroom and criminal justice advocacy, and raises awareness about public safety and policy through community education. AVA’s work is guided by the Georgia Crime Victims’ Bill of Rights, Section 17-17 ACOG.

Atlanta Victim Assistance ensures that family survivors of victims of homicide and the victims of child abuse, domestic violence, identity theft/bank fraud, and sexual assault have access to comprehensive services that ease their transition from victim to victor. Although AVA serves victims of a broad range of crimes, in an average year, 60 percent of the victims the organization serves are involved in cases related to domestic violence charges. More specifically, Atlanta Victim Assistance—

  • Provides crisis intervention and emotional support.

  • Accompanies victims to court and serves as a victim designee in court proceedings.

  • Provides assistance in filing temporary protection orders or bond orders.

  • Monitors a victim’s case and notifies the victim of updates.

  • Offers referrals to a network of direct service providers for such services as one-on-one counseling or emergency shelter.

  • Assists in filing victim compensation.

  • Organizes support groups for survivors and victims of homicide and domestic violence.

In response to the murder of her son, Executive Director Brenda Muhammad has built a local agency with national prominence and worked to influence public policy. As one of the longest serving directors of a victim assistance agency nationally, Brenda Muhammad has been instrumental in establishing the national victims bill of rights and national funding for victim compensation and helped to launch victim assistance programs across the Nation.

In 2009, the grant from OVC enabled AVA to launch Project SAFE (Stop Atlanta Fraud Empower) to provide citizens of Atlanta with information and resources on identity theft. (Read more about this project in the "Public Awareness" section.)

Overview of Project SAFE Campaign Accomplishments

  • Partnered with 14 of Atlanta’s top civic and community leaders and organizations.

  • Launched Project SAFE Web page as a one-stop shop for victims of identity theft; the site includes many self-help forms and publications, campaign materials that can be adapted for other victim service providers, and a video about identity theft. The site received more than 2,000 hits to its Web page since the August 2009 launch.

  • Achieved more than 5 million media impressions through educational outreach efforts including the Atlanta Journal-Constitution; Atlanta Daybook, a local online newswire; all four local network television affiliates; and local weekly and minority publications.

  • Developed and disseminated more than 20,000 Project SAFE: Fight Identity Theft campaign brochures, postcards, and posters featuring images of everyday Atlantans and public officials who were victims of identity theft or bank fraud.

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