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Office for Victims of Crime
2013 OVC Report to the Nation: Fiscal Years 2011-2012 'Transforming Today's Vision into Tomorrow's Reality'
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Identity Theft and Financial Fraud

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Cybercrime, which encompasses identity theft, financial fraud, and other online crime, is considered the fastest growing crime in the United States, with identity theft affecting an estimated 10 million victims annually. In addition to the individuals whose identities are stolen, a single fraudulent scheme can rapidly spread through cyberspace to victimize a multitude of individuals from any and all parts of the world. This 21st century crime presents major challenges for victims and service providers alike, as many practitioners do not yet offer the specialized services that victims need to restore their good names. OVC is working to ensure that service providers are well equipped to help these victims regain control of their finances and their lives.


OVC Supports Fraud Victims Through Collaboration and Innovation

In 2009, President Obama established the Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force—the largest coalition of federal, state, and local partners ever assembled to combat fraud—with Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr., as its Chair. OVC contributes to the work of the task force through its Victims Rights Committee, including sponsorship of events at which certified financial planners provide guidance to victims of financial fraud to help them with financial planning for the future. The task force also launched the Stopfraud.gov Web site during OVC's National Crime Victims' Rights Week (NCVRW) in 2011, with identity theft information included in the NCVRW Resource Guide in both English and Spanish in 2012.

In October 2012, the task force announced the results of its Distressed Homeowner Initiative—the first national effort to target fraud perpetrated on struggling homeowners. Some 73,000 victimized homeowners lost more than an estimated $1 billion, and 530 criminal defendants were charged. Shortly thereafter, OVC sponsored a free webinar on how victims of mortgage fraud can be helped by attorneys, victim service providers, and allied professionals.

OVC Funds National Network To Strengthen Services for Victims

The OVC-funded Identity Theft Victim Assistance Network is expanding the capacity and outreach of victim services programs nationwide to better address the rights and needs of identity theft and fraud victims through a collaborative network of 10 state and regional coalitions. Coordinated by Maryland Crime Victim Services, Inc., the network encourages service providers to incorporate services for victims of identity theft and fraud and provides guidance on enhancing services to providers who have some experience in this area.

Of Special Interest

  • Victims of identity theft are often unaware of their rights under federal law and the steps to take to report the crime, put out a fraud alert, work with credit reporting companies, and communicate effectively with debt collectors. In 2011, OVC and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) responded to this information gap by publishing a Statement of Rights for Identity Theft Victims, which summarizes the rights of identity theft victims, including limits on liability for fraudulent debts.
  • A rapidly emerging type of identity theft involves the appropriation of children's Social Security numbers, particularly by family members or guardians in foster care situations. Depending on the child's age, crimes committed with the stolen identity may not be discovered for years. In 2011, OVC and FTC presented "Stolen Futures," a free public forum on child identity theft, with the goal of advising parents and victims on prevention and resolution of issues.
  • Also in 2011, OVC released Expanding Services To Reach Victims of Identity Theft and Financial Fraud, an online publication to help providers improve services to victims of identity theft and financial fraud. The e-publication includes descriptions of four pilot programs, each focused on a specific aspect of combating identity theft and victim services, and includes practical tools for providers and victims.