Identity theft: one of America’s fastest growing crimes

Computers have greatly facilitated the compilation of information – including, unfortunately, information on the contents of another fellow's wallet. That's known as identify theft and it is one of America's fastest-growing crimes.

  • The Privacy Rights Clearing House estimates that 500,000 people are victimised by the crime each year, costing financial institutions, utilities and merchants more than $5 billion.

  • The U.S. Federal Trade Commission says identity theft accounted for 42 percent of consumer complaints last year.

  • Federal law-enforcement officials are engaged in a broad crackdown of those involved in the crime – which has led to more than 130 arrests.

    The arrested persons are being charged with a variety of scams – from stealing Social Security numbers to assuming the identity of a corporate executive and exercising nearly 200,000 stock options in the executive's name.

    The crackdown is also being carried out as part of the war on terrorism.

    The Justice Department is working with the office of Senator Dianne Feinstein (Democrat, California) to make it illegal to possess stolen identities with the intent to use or sell them to someone else. Current law only prohibits the use or sale of the identities.

    Source: Yochi J. Dreazen, U.S. Cracks Down on Identity Theft, Arrests Over 130, Wall Street Journal, May 3, 2002.

    For text (WSJ subscribers),,SB1020381352587789480-search,00.htm

    For more on U.S. Crime Statistics & Forecasts

    FMF Policy Bulletin\6 May 2002
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