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Identity Theft

Despite extensive media coverage and growing public awareness, identify theft affected an estimated 27 million victims over the past 5 years. The crime of identity theft can be difficult to track because it takes many forms and is used to facilitate other crimes, such as credit card fraud, immigration fraud, Internet scams, and terrorism.

Recent studies have found that identity theft victims often suffer the same emotional consequences as victims of other crimes.1 Victims are often left "holding the bag" after an identity theft or fraud; they must repair their credit, prevent further misuse of their personal information, and possibly fight lawsuits or prosecution. These efforts may take days, weeks, or even years.

More research on this and other aspects of identity theft crime is urgently needed.

OVC is helping to raise awareness of identity theft's consequences for victims and has sponsored several initiatives to help victims of identity theft. OVC also supports service providers, allied professionals, law enforcement, and others tasked with helping victims.

OVC also participates in several federal working groups that share information and foster collaboration in addressing the myriad issues associated with identity theft.

For more information about identity theft, see OVC's Web page on identity theft.

Identity Theft Verification Passport Program

Not only does identity theft rob a victim of money and time, but it can also land that victim in court or even jail, falsely accused of crimes committed in his or her name. In a recent survey, 12 percent of respondents reported that warrants had been issued in the victim's name.2 Victims may have difficulty proving to a company, agency, or credit bureau that they are the victim and not the perpetrator, even when a police report has been filed.

OVC has funded a demonstration program to help consumers avoid these problems and set the record straight-the Ohio Attorney General's Identity Theft Verification Passport Program. As of February 2005, Ohio victims of identity theft may apply for a "passport" after filing a police report. Using biometric and other technologies to create digital identifiers, the passport helps victims identify and/or defend themselves against fraudulent criminal charges, restore credit, and prevent further misuse of their personal information. The program also prevents duplicate entries of the victim's information.

The program has conducted more than 25 trainings for law enforcement, involving nearly 300 agencies and 600 officers. Program staff conducted presentations for victims in several Ohio cities during National Consumer Protection Week (February 6-12, 2005).

The National Institute of Justice is conducting an evaluation of the Ohio program. If the program proves to be effective, OVC anticipates working with other states that want to implement a passport program, if funding is available.

For more information, visit the Identity Theft Verification Passport Program Web site.

2005 National Consumer Protection Week/OVC's Web Forum

National Consumer Protection Week

OVC participated as a member of the Steering Committee to help launch the Federal Trade Commission's seventh annual National Consumer Protection Week (NCPW) campaign, held February 6-12, 2005. The theme for 2005 was "Identity Theft: When Fact Becomes Fiction." NCPW highlighted key resources for victims and professionals serving victims, including OVC's Directory of Crime Victim Services, which lists more than 6,000 victim service providers in the United States and abroad.

Federal agencies

State agencies

Consumer advocates

  • Consumer Federation of America
  • National Association of Attorneys General
  • National Association of Consumer Affairs Administrators
  • Identity Theft Resource Center
  • Privacy Rights Clearinghouse
  • National Association of Consumer Agency Administrators
  • National Consumers League
  • American Association of Retired Persons
  • Better Business Bureau
  • Call for Action

OVC's Web Forum on Identity Theft

During NCPW 2005, OVC hosted a question and answer session about identity theft on its Web Forum bulletin board: Help for Victim Service Providers. OVC arranged for guest hosts: cofounders of the Identity Theft Resource Center, Ms. Linda Goldman-Foley and Mr. Jay Foley. More than 70 messages were posted during the question and answer session. The forum's bulletin board is still available for you to view comments and add your own ideas and best practices on assisting victims of identity theft. Visit the OVC Web Forum Message Board on Identity Theft.

Identity Theft Resource Center

Founded by victims of identity theft, the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) was one of six recipients of OVC's 2004 National Crime Victims' Service Award. ITRC offers many resources and services for victims, consumers, and businesses seeking to prevent or deal with identity theft. The center is also a resource for law enforcement agencies, legislators, and the media.

Available from ITRC:

  • Scam alerts that are updated frequently.
  • Detailed guides, fact sheets, and advice for victims.
  • Resources to help businesses prevent security breaches and assess risk.
  • Information about federal and state laws and pending legislation.
  • Resources for law enforcement and fraud investigators.
  • Sample letters, testimony, and forms.
  • Spanish-language pages.
  • Victim impact studies (most recent: Identity Theft: The Aftermath 2004).

In 2004, OVC sponsored a National Institute of Justice (NIJ) study that found that ITRC is providing a valuable service to victims of identity theft. Researchers recommended further documentation of the center's methods and resources. NIJ is sponsoring development of a resource guide for serving victims of identity theft, drawn from ITRC's extensive experience, due to be completed in 2006.

Visit the ITRC Web site.

Education, Outreach, and Training

Identity theft is of urgent concern to businesses and financial institutions who are also victims, to police or other public officials who protect and advise victims, and to government agencies and criminal justice personnel who must devote resources to investigate and prosecute identity theft cases. OVC sponsors education, outreach, and training to help these professionals help victims of identity theft.

Education and Outreach

OVC conducts many activities to raise awareness of identity theft issues and address needs in the victim assistance field. Listed below are some highlights from the past 2 years:

  • OVC has worked closely with the Bureau of Justice Statistics to update its National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) to include a new series of questions about identity theft. (A major source of national statistics on criminal victimization, the NCVS had not tracked national patterns of the relatively new crime of identity theft until recently. (See Recent Releases.) The survey results will be released in 2006.

  • In February 2005, OVC participated on an expert panel that briefed congressional staff about identity theft's impact on victims and where to refer victims who contact their offices for assistance.

  • During National Consumer Protection Week, OVC hosted a live Web Forum on Identity Theft.

  • OVC helped the National Criminal Justice Reference Service develop its comprehensive online resource, Spotlight on Identity Theft.

  • OVC helped the National Criminal Justice Reference Service develop last year's winter edition of Justice Resource Update (winter 2005), which included a report on Ohio's Identity Theft Verification Passport Program. JRU also featured a reference to Identity Theft, a guide for police from the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services.

  • OVC helped the National Crime Prevention Council develop a national media campaign about identity theft that includes a PSA and guidebook featuring McGruff the Crime Dog®.

  • In October 2004, OVC's Director John W. Gillis participated in the Federal Trade Commission's 2004 Hispanic Outreach Forum and Law Enforcement Workshop, which explored strategies to raise awareness within Hispanic communities about fraud-including identity theft-and to develop law enforcement collaborations to counter fraud targeting Hispanics. Read a Summary of the Proceedings.


OVC's Training and Technical Assistance Center (TTAC) consultants deliver workshops or tailored trainings for victim service providers, law enforcement, or allied professionals at conferences or other events. For example, TTAC assisted in an FBI training on the impact of identity theft on victims. Workshops on identity theft have been held at events such as the National Organization for Victim Assistance Conference, the Indian Nations Conference, and Victims of Crime Act Administrator National Conferences. As a cosponsor of the National White Collar Crime Center's annual Economic Crime Summits, OVC presented a training track on assisting identity theft victims at three regional training sessions in 2005.

Requested training/support must meet TTAC criteria-see TTAC's Training and Technical Assistance Web page.

OVC's Web Resources

OVC's Identity Theft Web Page

OVC maintains a Web page covering identity theft, with links to federal agencies, national organizations, credit monitoring companies, and state victim assistance agencies and compensation programs. Also included are links to OVC publications and videos that help service providers assist fraud victims. Visit OVC Identity Theft page.

Services for Crime Victims

OVC hosts a comprehensive database of victim service providers in the United States and abroad-the Directory of Crime Victim Services.3 Service providers looking to make a referral for a victim of identity theft can easily search the database by state, zip code, and topic to find programs.

Fraud Victimization

There are many forms of fraud, and many related victims' issues, including the emotional impact of fraud victimization. OVC's Fraud Web page lists resources for victims, service providers, and trainers.

Recent Releases for Victims, Consumers, and Professionals

A wealth of information is available for identity theft victims, as well as consumers and businesses. Help is also available for service providers and allied professionals who assist identity theft victims. Some important sources are listed below.

General Focus

  Spotlight on Identity Theft. Comprehensive overview of the many issues involved with this crime.
  Federal Trade Commission.

Congress designated the Federal Trade Commission as the lead federal agency on identity theft, to inform consumers and victims and to collect reports. FTC's Web page has tips to help consumers avoid identity theft or report and address the consequences of identity theft. The Identity Theft Data Clearinghouse publishes annual reports on national and state ID theft statistics and trends.

FTC sponsored the only federal national study on identity theft to date-2003 FTC report.

FTC's Consumer Sentinel Web site and service center for victims, law enforcement, policymakers, and others interested in data and trends in the field includes a restricted-access Web site where law enforcement may access consumer complaints about identity theft and other fraud.

For Victims and Consumers

  Preventing Identity Theft: A Guide for Consumers. The Bureau of Justice Assistance sponsored this guide prepared by the National Crime Prevention Council, creators of the well-known McGruff® ("take a bite out of crime") character.
  Take Charge: Fighting Back Against Identity Theft. FTC pamphlet for victims and consumers.
  OVC's Web Resources.

For Business

  Help From FTC for Business Owners and Operators.
    Facts for Business.
    Information for Businesses-In the Real World.
    Information Compromise and the Risk of Identity Theft: Guidance for Your Business.
  BBBOnline. The Better Business Bureau sponsors BBBOnline for businesses affected by or seeking to prevent identity theft fraud and loss.

For Practitioners, Policymakers, and Researchers

  Comprehensive Review and Bibliography. The National Institute of Justice sponsored a major study that comprehensively compiled and reviewed scientific studies and other sources of information about identity theft. See Identity Theft Literature Review.
  Resource Guide for Victim Service Providers (forthcoming). Through the National Institute of Justice, OVC is funding development of a resource guide for victim service organizations about serving identity theft victims. Look for the guide in late 2006.
  Just for Police.
    The Office of Community Oriented Policing Services published a guide to help law enforcement officers develop local responses to identity theft and to measure the effectiveness of police response. Access the Identity Theft guide.
    For FTC resources for law enforcement, visit the FTC Web site and click on "Law Enforcement."


OVC will continue to take a prominent role in federal efforts addressing identity theft victimization and to assist law enforcement, prosecutors, victim advocates, and state agencies through education, outreach, research, and innovative programs to help victims recover.

1. See "The Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) Releases Its Second Identity Theft Victimization Study," press release, September 14, 2005. ITRC's study calls for more research into the long-term emotional impact on victims. Another study sponsored by OVC through the National Institute of Justice found that: "Individuals suffer various types of additional 'costs' as a result of their victimization . . . [including] the time and effort required to resolve various problems created by the theft, the emotional impact or feeling of 'violation' that often results, and the frustration of being harassed by debt collectors or dealing with various agencies in trying to resolve problems." See G.R. Newman, and M.M. McNally, Identity Theft Literature Review, January 2005: 34.
2. See Identity Theft: The Aftermath 2004, Identity Theft Resource Center, September 2005: p. 8.
3. The Directory includes many programs funded by OVC under the Victims of Crime Act (VOCA).

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