Identity Theft: A Growing Problem
Law Enforcement Management Institute of Texas (LEMIT)
Identity theft, defined as the illegal use of someone else's personal information (such as a Social Security number) especially in order to obtain money or credit, has quickly become the most prevalent financial crime in the United States (Merriam-Webster, n.d.). Despite its substantial growth, basic questions about identity theft such as its prevalence, nature, and consequences; characteristics of offenders and victims; and extent of victims' losses remain unanswered. Law enforcement should devote more resources to the detection and prevention of identity theft. Often, a victim of identity theft must spend countless hours proving their own innocence and may suffer from extreme physical and emotional stress due to drained bank accounts, lost wages during their own investigating, plus an inability to borrow. Identity theft is an after the fact crime due to victims not realizing they are victims for months or as long as years from when the personal information was used. Educating the public in being diligent of protecting their personal information while using public Wi-Fi and recognizing phishing emails requesting personal information is a critical start in lowering the number of victims. There is an estimated 156 million emails sent every day with 80,000 victims falling for a scam and giving their personal information (“Phishing-How Many Take The Bait,” 2015). Agencies must commit to fully investigating incidents with their capabilities to identify and prosecute suspects of identity theft. A victim who has an agency willing to provide direction on recovering their identity could easily make the uphill battle of the victim a few steps shorter. Public service announcements warning Americans of giving personal information could decrease the incidents law enforcement would be asked to investigate.
Identity theft, Fraud, False Personation