Prosecution of Identity Theft Crimes Can be Difficult
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Why are so few identity theft crimes prosecuted?
The statistics for fraud identity theft are staggering: nearly 10 million victims annually, with an average loss per individual of more than $5,600, and a $52.6 billion loss to businesses. Yet despite the growing number of fraud identity theft cases, prosecution and conviction are tough to achieve. Why?
- Lack of resources. Police departments and district attorney's offices are overwhelmed with violent crimes. While identity theft crimes are wreaking havoc with victims' lives, the threat is not physical, thus it falls further down the priority list to assign resources and manpower.
- Lack of evidence. One of the biggest challenges of getting an identity theft conviction is building a strong case against a suspect. With the burden of proof on the prosecutor to prove a case beyond reasonable doubt, the likelihood of gathering enough evidence to confidently convict is slim.
- Charges not filed. Many victims do not file charges for prosecution. Unfortunately, decisions are often made by weighing the cost of the loss against the cost of pursuing prosecution.
While these harsh realities associated with punishment for identity theft crimes may be hard to accept, the fact is that successful prosecutions are possible. Police departments have started establishing dedicated fraud units to piece together evidence that builds a strong case. One victim's report alone may not be able to spark a conviction, but several victims' reports may be able to string together a pattern and history of the offender that could hold up in court.
Both individuals and businesses should do all they can to report identity theft crimes, file complaints, and track losses. Detail as much as possible about the “who, what, when, where, and how” of the offense and file the documentation with your local police department and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).