Reporting Identity Theft Can Pay Dividends
You can help protect yourself and the rest of the country from identity theft, an insidious crime that has silently crept up on unwitting consumers, government entities and privately owned businesses.
As millions of Americans fall victim to identity theft each year, they learn how time consuming it is to recover from such an incident. Often unsure of where to start, the frustrations can seem endless for consumers who seek the path to recovery.
For many law enforcement agencies, it can be just as frustrating. Few law enforcement officers have been offered courses specifically about identity theft, yet they are expected to know how to effectively and swiftly respond to victims seeking their help. In today’s economy, police managers must prioritize their efforts, and generally focus on violent crimes.
Most consumers will automatically contact their banks or other financial institutions. Often, these institutions tell victims they don’t need to report it to the police, because the bank will reimburse the losses and make them whole.
This, however, leaves the police at a great disadvantage. While the companies may make customers financially whole, it doesn’t help protect the next victim; it merely lets thieves continue their activity undetected and unpunished, moving from one victim to the next. With each new caper, the crooks hone their skills and avoid arrest.
What the public may not know is that law enforcement agencies work together on a daily basis, sharing intelligence, photographs and crime trends in order to protect the public. That’s why it’s crucial to report incidents of identity theft, regardless of the lack of monetary damage. The same crimes are often committed by the same individuals. Therefore, the more law enforcement knows about crime in the area, the safer the community will be.
The good news is that in several arenas, the lack of education and the lack of reporting is changing. Websites, such as one by the Federal Trade Commission, provide victims with identity theft kits, containing step-by-step instructions. Many State Attorney General Websites provide guidance for victims. The laws, federal and local, are evolving and improving, referring directly to the crime of identity theft and offering stiffer penalties. Perhaps best of all, identity theft is now added to law enforcement’s fraud curriculum nationwide.
As law enforcement and legislators work to reduce this crime, consumers must remain vigilant, protect their personal information, and permit American businesses to risk a reduction in customer service in exchange for an increase in customer security.
Identity theft is an invasive weed negatively affecting our nation in many ways. With $54 billion in losses each year, the crime of identity theft is adding to our national debt.
It can start with behavior modification. Imagine if, the next time you went out to eat, you refused to hand your credit card to the server who then walks out of your field of vision. Imagine the intelligence that could be derived if Americans reported the crime of identity theft every time. If Americans work together to shine a light on identity thieves, we can reduce crime, help fix our economy and secure our country all at the same time. It’s not only priceless, it’s possible.
Further help can be found from a company such as LifeLock, online at www.lifelock.com. It uses up-to-the-minute methods to detect, alert, protect and, if necessary, help correct the harm caused by identity theft.
Ms. Frederick is an instructor for the FBI Law Enforcement Executive Development Association (LEEDA) and leads identity theft training seminars. With 19 years of law enforcement experience, she has spent her career focusing on fraud and identity theft cases.