Identity crime knows no geographic boundaries and demands a coordinated investigative effort between law enforcement and other government agencies across jurisdictions. Identity crime investigations are complex because there are no witnesses or physical evidence at the crime scene, which may be on the other side of the world.
Local law enforcement is the first responder to identity crime. Coordinated investigation efforts and information sharing systems make up the cornerstone of a successful strategy for investigating identity crime. Local law enforcement and private financial institutions must join forces to help victims.
Fostering understanding of these complicated crimes is the first step to effective investigations.
Sample investigatory steps are available for working identity crime cases.
Investigations can be difficult because they may involve jurisdiction issues. For example, the victim may live in one state, but the charge on the victim's account may have originated in another state. Jurisdiction issues can be confusing for law enforcement agencies that are not familiar with identity theft /crime law or do not have departmental procedures for receiving and investigating complaints of identity crime.
In most cases, investigators should always follow the money; this is an appropriate investigative strategy in any financial crime. To help pursue the investigation, action steps should include:
- Getting financial information from the victim. Ask the victim to voluntarily provide you with a credit report from the three major credit bureaus. If the victim is uncooperative or unable, you may obtain the information by a search warrant or subpoena power.
- Requesting a copy of the victim’s identity crime records from creditors without obtaining a subpoena if you have authorization from the victim. If the creditor refuses your request for records, under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, Section 609(e), e-mail the FTC at 609eRecords@ftc.gov.
- Examining all financial and credit bureau documents. They are useful pieces of evidence to tie suspects to the crime and eventual prosecution. For help with this step, the investigator can contact appropriate state and local agencies, as well as several federal agencies.
- Advising the victim to keep a log of what they do or say to everyone regarding the crime. The victim can use this as part of the impact statement during subsequent court proceedings.
- Using informants developed from potential suspects who may have been involved in other identity crime incidents.
- Considering other means to access privileged information. These can include obtaining federal cooperation and funds, seeking state and federal RICO statute investigations, or using forfeiture statutes to gain access to financial records.