Do you need help with identity theft?

help-with-identity-theftOne of the most serious types of computer crimes is identity theft. Although it is possible for criminals to gather your personal data without using computers, in reality this is very much an “internet crime.” The days of people rummaging through garbage to get data have evolved to making use of technology to gather sufficient information about an individual in order to impersonate them, and typically to purchase high value goods using the victim’s financial resources. The Federal Trade Commission estimates that up to nine million Americans have their identity stolen each year, and provides help with identity theft issues.

The biggest problems with this type of crime are the ease with which they can be conducted and the low chance of being caught. Identity theft is an anonymous crime where the criminal and victim don’t meet, and the only trace of the crime is an electronic one which requires sophisticated detection methods. Furthermore, because of the lack of violence in the crime it is not one that carries stiff penalties. Also, unless multiples cases are solved at the same time the criminal is only usually found to have stolen a relatively small amount of money. This can be frustrating for law enforcement as the criminals often steal multiple identities, but manage to evade detection on most of them.

The criminals target securing personally identifying information, such as the victim’s name, credit card number, or social Security number, and then go to commit fraud. Typically the criminal will quickly set up a phone and credit card in the victim’s name, and even rent a property. This base gives a veil of legitimacy from which they can go on to commit a range of crimes. The crime can go undetected for extended periods of time as it is not until something like a credit card statement arrives that the victim realizes what has happened.

It is not a victimless crime where the expenses are picked up by the credit card companies. Instead people suffering identity theft can find that their credit records are wiped out, and they are unable to secure loans. Sometimes victims are arrested for crimes they did not commit.

From a legal point of view there are four distinct forms of identity theft: identity cloning, synthetic identity theft, financial identity theft, and criminal identity theft. The Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act was passed in the late 1990s. The Act makes it a federal crime to know about, unlawfully transfer, or possess identification documents.

With identity cloning the criminal is seeking to conceal his own identity by using somebody else’s. This is usually to avoid detection for another crime. Synthetic identity theft is where the criminal simply makes up part or all of an identity; again this is usually to avoid detection for another crime. Financial identity is the most commonly understood, and is where credit cards are or loans are taken out in the victim’s name. Criminal identity theft is where somebody charged with a crime gives somebody else’s details. Sometimes these people are still punished for the crime, but emerge from prison with a clean criminal record.

If you find yourself a victim and needing help with identity theft then you should immediately inform all the financial institutions you work with, file a police report, inform the major credit bureaus, and report it to the Federal Trade Commission. You should work with an attorney to prepare identity theft affidavits which inform all the financial institutions and credit bureaus that you are a victim of fraud. This affidavit will include a copy of the police report.

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