Bush Administration Promises Identity Theft Reduction
by Jim Kouri, CPP
The crime of identity theft undermines the basic trust on which our economy depends. When a person takes out an insurance policy, or makes an online purchase, or opens a savings account, he or she must have confidence that personal financial information will be protected and treated with care. Identity theft harms not only its direct victims, but also many businesses and customers whose confidence is shaken. Like other forms of stealing, identity theft leaves the victim poor and feeling terribly violated.
- President George W. Bush
Identity theft and identity fraud are terms used to refer to types of crime in which someone wrongfully obtains and uses another individual's personal data in a way that involves fraud or deception, typically for economic gain.
Unlike fingerprints, which are unique to an individual and cannot be given to someone else for their use, personal data—especially Social Security numbers, bank account or credit card numbers, telephone calling card numbers, and other valuable identifying data—can be used by someone to personally profit at the victim's expense.
Unauthorized persons take funds out of others' bank or financial accounts or take over their identities altogether, running up debts and committing crimes while using the victims' names. A victim's losses may include not only out-of-pocket financial losses, but additional costs associated with trying to restore his reputation in the community and correcting erroneous information about his financial or personal status.
According to the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) report (2003), identity thieves use a variety of methods to gain access to your personal information:
* They get information from businesses or other institutions by:
stealing records from their employer, bribing an employee who has access to these records, or hacking into the organization's computers.
* They rummage through your trash or the trash of businesses or dumps in a practice known as dumpster diving.
* They obtain credit reports by abusing their employer's authorized access to credit reports or by posing as a landlord, employer, or someone else who may have a legal right to the information.
* They steal credit and debit card numbers as your card is processed by using a special information storage device in a practice known as skimming.
* They steal wallets and purses containing identification and credit and bank cards.
* They steal mail, including bank and credit card statements, preapproved credit offers, new checks, or tax information.
* They complete a “change of address form” to divert your mail to another location.
* They steal personal information from your home.
* They scam information from posing as a legitimate business person or government official.
New methods of identity theft continue to appear. For example, a form of identity theft called phishing gained prominence. Phishing involves creating and using e-mails and Web sites designed to look like those of well-known, legitimate businesses, financial institutions, and government agencies to deceive Internet users into disclosing their personal information (e.g., bank and financial account information, usernames, passwords). The phishers then take that information and use it for criminal purposes, such as identity theft and fraud.
Various federal and numerous state and local law enforcement agencies are responsible for investigating identity theft crimes. The division of the Office of Training Operations, Federal Law Enforcement Training Center, designs, develops, coordinates, and administers training programs related to the investigation of financial and high-technology crimes for FLETC's participating organizations. It also provides training to other Federal, State, local or foreign law enforcement organizations on a "space available" basis. Organizations representing police officers and investigators are providing training as well.
Jim Kouri, CPP is currently fifth vice-president of the National Association of Chiefs of Police. He's former chief at a New York City housing project in Washington Heights nicknamed "Crack City" by reporters covering the drug war in the 1980s. In addition, he served as director of public safety at a New Jersey university and director of security for a number of organizations. He's also served on the National Drug Task Force and trained police and security officers throughout the country. He writes for many police and crime magazines including Chief of Police, Police Times, The Narc Officer, Campus Law Enforcement Journal, and others. He's appeared as on-air commentator for over 100 TV and radio news and talk shows including Oprah, McLaughlin Report, CNN Headline News, MTV, Fox News, etc. His book Assume The Position is available at Amazon.Com, Booksamillion.com, and can be ordered at local bookstores. Kouri holds a bachelor of science in criminal justice and master of arts in public administration and he's a board certified protection professional.