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Is Identity Theft Affecting Corrections?
By Leonard A. Sipes, Jr.
Published: 01/14/2019

Identity theft This is interesting. Twenty-six million Americans are victimized by identity theft in 2016 and only seven percent of victims called the police.

The numbers completely dwarf any other form of violent or property crime, Bureau of Justice Statistics.

There is an ongoing discussion as to limiting the justice system’s prosecution of some offenders and the involvement of the private sector to process criminal cases, but in this case, it’s irrelevant.

It’s as if we have returned to the time of the Pinkertons. This is principally a private sector initiative.

That’s not to say that banks and credit card companies did not ask the justice system for assistance, but on the face of it, it’s concerning that the principle crime in America had no police involvement via victims.

For one federal agency, prosecutions are minimal, Forbes. Per another source, one in 700 are arrested, Quora.

Note that per Gallup, 23% of U.S. households were victimized by cybercrime in 2018, Crime in America.

Identity theft is increasing by considerable margins, from 7% in 2014 to 10% in 2016.

The demographics for identity theft are considerably different (i.e., older, higher income victims) from the data on violent and common property crime, Bureau of Justice Statistics.


The principle crime in America (in terms of numbers) has little justice involvement.

The data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics and Gallup indicate that large (and growing) numbers of citizens and households are victimized beyond violent and common property crimes.

That has implications for justice policy and citizen perceptions and could explain why crime is such a concern among Americans; per Gallup, 78 percent of Americans worry about crime and violence a great deal or a fair amount, the same as health care, the number one issue, Crime in America.

See more about identity theft from the Department of Justice.

Bureau of Justice Statistics Report

In 2016, an estimated 10% of persons age 16 or older reported that they had been victims of identity theft during the prior 12 months.

For continuing counties (those that were in the National Crime Victimization Survey, Identity Theft Supplement sample in both 2014 and 2016), the portion of the population that experienced identity theft increased from 7% in 2014 to 10% in 2016.

For 85% of identity-theft victims, the most recent incident involved the misuse or attempted misuse of only one type of existing account, such as a credit card or bank account.

An estimated 12% of identity-theft victims had out-of-pocket losses of $1 or more; 88% either had no out-of-pocket losses or losses of less than $1. According to the 17.7 million persons age 16 or older who experienced one or more incidents of identity theft with known losses of $1 or more, total losses across all incidents of identity theft totaled $17.5 billion in 2016.

Victim Characteristics

Based on the 2016 survey, more females (13.5 million) experienced identity theft than males (12.5 million). However, males and females had similar identity-theft prevalence rates (10% each).

Whites (12%) had a higher prevalence of identity theft than blacks (7%), Hispanics (6%), and persons of other races (8%).

Whites and persons of two or more races (12% each) had a similar prevalence of identity theft. Persons ages 35 to 49 and ages 50 to 64 (12% each) had a higher prevalence of identity theft than all other age groups.

Also, persons in the highest income category (those in households with annual incomes of $75,000 or more, which includes 35% of all persons age 16 or older) had the highest prevalence of identity theft (14% experienced it).

Consequences of Identity Theft

More than half (55%) of identity-theft victims who resolved associated financial or credit problems did so in one day or less. About 10% of identity-theft victims said they experienced severe emotional distress as a result of the incident.

The level of victims’ emotional distress was related to the time spent resolving problems. More than a third (36%) of victims who spent 6 months or more resolving financial and credit problems as a result of the identity theft experienced severe emotional distress.

In comparison, 4% of victims who spent one day or less clearing up problems experienced severe distress.

An estimated 7% of identity-theft victims reported the crime to police. Among victims who did not report the incident to police, the most common reason was that the victim handled the incident in another way (68%).

About a fifth of victims who did not report the incident to police did not think that it was important enough to report (18%) or either did not know how to report it or did not think about reporting it (17%).

Reprinted with permission from http://www.crimeinamerica.net.

Contact us at crimeinamerica@gmail.com or for media on deadline, use leonardsipes@gmail.com.

Leonard A. Sipes, Jr has thirty-five years of experience supervising public affairs for national and state criminal justice agencies. He is the Former Senior Specialist for Crime Prevention for the Department of Justice’s clearinghouse and the Former Director of Information Management for the National Crime Prevention Council. He has a Post Master’s degree from Johns Hopkins University and is the author of the book "Success With the Media". He can be reached via email at leonardsipes@gmail.com.


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