Identity theft victims are growing year after year. Despite our rapid technological growth, many cases go unsolved. If you consider identity theft a legitimate industry, business is booming. Over the last four years, identity theft victims have grown from $10.2 million in 2010 to $13.1 million in 2013 — the second highest amount since Javelin Strategy & Research started collecting data in 2004. Though there exists no complete nationwide data on identity theft prosecutions, it's been noted to be incredibly hard crime to bring to justice.
Why Identity Theft is Hard to Prosecute
Many identify theft victims never find closure. Even if police make an arrest, few perps ever go to jail. The most common obstacles to prosecuting identity thieves include the following:
Sadly, many identity thieves aren't strangers; they're the victim's family members. A parent or child who stole your identity might beg you not to go to the police. A cousin who stole your identity might enlist other family members to pressure you not to prosecute. If you don't have the stomach to prosecute a family member, you probably won't see justice and you won't recover your financial losses.
Identity thieves often live far away from their victims and law enforcement officers don't always cooperate across jurisdictional lines. If your identity was stolen by someone living overseas, it's unlikely that the person will ever be arrested.
Private financial institutions, in most cases, pay off the financial losses and decline to prosecute. They consider the case closed and refuse to cooperate with law enforcement.
Poor Police Training
Traditional criminal cases involve physical evidence and eyewitness testimony. However, identity theft often occurs over phone lines or over a computer, leaving little trace of how the criminal found your information. Police officers untrained to prosecute digital crime may not be able to get an arrest.
Weak Sentencing Guidelines
Most courts consider identity theft a property crime, and property crimes doesn't often result in significant jail time. If your case gets to court, you probably won't have the satisfaction of seeing the criminal imprisoned.
Take steps to prevent criminals from obtaining your identity, such as shredding mail, using strong passwords, never sharing passwords and avoiding links in unsolicited text messages or emails. Ultimately, law enforcement doesn't have the tools to eliminate increasingly clever hackers, so it's up to you to protect your personal information.