The Center for Identity Management and Information Protection at Utica College recently completed a study, funded by the U.S. Department of Justice, of the U.S. Secret Service's case files related to identity theft. The researchers analyzed 517 cases closed by the Secret Service between 2000 and 2006.
This study, which focused on a profile of identity thieves, is long overdue since most studies focus on the ID-theft victims. I think that it's also important to note that these 517 cases are a tiny portion of the total number of identity theft cases every year, many of which go unreported. According to the Federal Trade Commission, about 9 million Americans have their identities stolen each year.
Anyway, the key findings of the study:
- "42.5% of offenders were between the ages of 25 and 34. Another 18% were between the ages of 18 and 24."
- "Two-thirds of the identity thieves were male."
- "Nearly a quarter of the offenders were born outside the United States."
- "80% of the cases involved an offender working solo or with a single partner"
- "Fewer than 20% of the crimes involved the Internet. The most frequently used non-technological method was the rerouting of mail through change of address cards. Other prevalent non-technological methods were mail theft and dumpster diving."
- "Of the 933 offenders, 609 said they initiated their crime by stealing fragments of personal identifying information, as opposed to stealing entire documents, such as bank cards or driver's licenses."
- "Most of the offenses were committed by non-employees who victimized strangers."
- "Employee insiders were the offenders in just one-third of the 517 cases. When an employee did commit identity theft, the offenders were employed in a retail business
in two out of every five instances... Stores, gas stations, car dealerships, casinos, restaurants, hotels, doctors and hospitals were all considered retail operations"
- In about a fifth of the cases, the employee worked in the financial services industry.
While this is valuable research, one must be careful about making conclusions since the study included only Secret Services cases, and of those only closed cases. Want to learn more? Read the Associated Press news release, download the CIMIP study, or read the Red Tape Chronicles post.