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The price we pay
Sleazy con artists cause a great deal of inconvenience -- not to mention $45 billion in costs.
Protecting your identity

The costs of ID theft

Regaining the trust of their customers can be the biggest expense. A 2007 study from the Ponemon Institute found that the average cost for a company that reports a breach is over $6.3 million per incident, the majority of which -- two-thirds -- is the cost to recover lost business.

"I don't think anyone in the market or any organization can truly understand the ramifications and impact of the customer experience," says Lapidus.

How it affects law enforcement
Catching the people who cause all these problems isn't easy. Local and state police lack the resources and manpower to launch prolonged investigations into identity theft cases.

It's almost impossible to catch a criminal who is conducting themselves anonymously online from all over the world.”

"When deluged with numerous reports (of crimes) that ultimately occur out of their jurisdiction, police can only then file the information to be accessed when looking at other newer cases. Otherwise, it's almost impossible to catch a criminal who is conducting themselves anonymously online from all over the world. Their hands are tied," says Siciliano.

The federal cases analyzed by CIMIP typically involved one year or more of investigation on the part of the Secret Service, says Rebovich. "You're talking about dedicating time to interview informants and evidence."

The nature of the crimes makes tracking down criminals much more difficult and, as Dallas attorney Matt Yarborough found, tough to prove.

The former federal prosecutor who focused on cybercrime and online fraud once worked with a victim of identity theft whose neighbor had stolen his mail. The neighbor had applied for a credit card with the information.

"(The victim) thought he knew who had done it but couldn't prove it to the police," says Yarborough. "We asked them to subpoena the credit card company, and their records showed the e-mail address that (the neighbor) had used to communicate with them. We had her e-mail address that she had communicated with us from, and they matched. That was enough for them to go ahead and indict her."

In the cases studied at CIMIP, coincidences often sparked an identity theft case with the police.

"As a researcher, what surprised me in looking over the files was how many cases started with a police officer making a vehicular stop, broken taillight, and they see evidence that this person has more than just a speeding problem," says Rebovich.

Identity theft should be on the radar of more law enforcement departments when they're investigating routine crimes, he says. "Local enforcement can be made alert to the fact that they could be the first responders to these types of cases."

-- Posted: April 21, 2008
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