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 For Immediate Release
July 22, 2004

COPS OFFICE SEEKS TO HELP LOCAL OFFICIALS REDUCE IDENTITY THEFT

WASHINGTON D.C. - The Department of Justice Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) released a new practical guidebook intended to help local law enforcement, government, consumer protection, and financial industry officials address the growing crime of identity theft. The aptly named publication, Identity Theft, provides readers with information that will help them assess the prevalence of identity theft locally, develop appropriate responses, and measure the effectiveness of those responses.

Identity theft involves stealing another person's personal identifying information, such as their Social Security number, date of birth, bank card numbers, or PIN numbers, and using that information to fraudulently establish credit, run up debt, or take over existing financial accounts. There is limited statistical information available on the prevalence of identity theft for several reasons. Generally, law enforcement agencies lack information systems to track identity theft cases; and, identity theft is almost always a component of one or more other financial crimes, such as bank, credit card, ATM, internet fraud, pick-pocketing, purse-snatching, or counterfeiting. However, proxies and residual indicators of identity theft such as consumer complaints to credit reporting agencies about invalid debts, and consumer complaints to the Federal Trade Commission and to the Social Security Administration about fraud related crimes suggest that incidents of identity theft are increasing rapidly.

"This publication details several distinct identity theft patterns, each of which presents unique challenges for law enforcement, consumer protection, and financial industry officials, said COPS Director Carl R. Peed. "Understanding the factors that contribute to identity theft will help law enforcement officials analyze their local patterns and implement effective responses to this type of criminal activity."

In addition to the newly released publication, COPS has provided funding to Maryland's John Hopkins University to review promising anti-identity theft practices that can be incorporated into a national model strategy, and implemented by local law enforcement officials throughout the country. Development of this model strategy will be completed in 2005.

Identity Theft is the most recent volume in a series of Problem Oriented Guides for Police developed by the COPS Office. It can be downloaded from the COPS website, or it may be obtained by contacting the U.S. Department of Justice Response Center at 800.421.6770.

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