Take the Report, Help the Victim
Taking a report is essential for the victim’s ability to begin recovery, but there are also times when taking a report on another incident will reveal the risk of identity crime when the victim has not yet considered this as a possibility.
Law enforcement officers who respond to other types of crime need to be aware of the risks of identity crime in such cases, for example, as car break-in with a stolen purse or a laptop computer. Inside the purse, of course, are all the bits of personal information needed to commit a range of identity crimes, and victims need to be alerted to this risk and informed of how to take appropriate steps.
As mentioned above, the victim needs to send written requests and a police report to the credit reporting agencies and financial institutions. As an alternative to the Universal Complaint, a victim can send a law enforcement report accompanied by an affidavit. The FTC Identity Theft Affidavit is accepted as such by most businesses and can be printed out from the FTC Web site. To get a copy of the Affidavit, visit http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/resources/forms/affidavit.pdf.
The ID Theft Affidavit may be used for a variety of purposes, including to absolve victims of debts from accounts opened in their name, or to obtain application or transaction records from a company the identity thief dealt with.
The Identity Theft Report is a more detailed version of the ID Theft Affidavit, and as discussed above, entitles the victim to the additional protections described previously.
Whichever form the victim chooses to use, a signed copy of the form, attached to a copy of the police report, needs to be provided to each business, bank, credit reporting agency, etc., in order to require them to remove compromised information from the credit reports, correct erroneous charges, restore funds to savings or checking accounts, etc. Victims should retain a copy of the affidavit for future reference and as a proof that their personal identifying information was stolen. Officers who take reports on this crime need to anticipate certain challenges including:
- Crucial information will be missing. The victim may not have account numbers, for example, or may not know how the information was first compromised.
- Victims may be difficult to talk with at first. This crime results in psychological damage, and often people are very upset, even traumatized by the anxiety and the invasion of their privacy and the loss of their good name. Worse, they may have already tried to contact financial institutions and were met with little helpful information. They may be quite frustrated by the effort to recover their losses by the time they come to make a report.