U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

Identity Theft Literature Review

NCJ Number
Date Published
January 2005
114 pages
This report presents a review of the available scientific literature and other sources pertaining to the problem of identity theft and its prevention.

In 1998, the Federal Identity and Assumption Deterrence Act defined identity theft, making it an easier crime to prosecute. Unfortunately, the definition provided by this Act offered little to researchers who illustrated how the problem of identity theft is comprised of a variety of disparate types of crimes committed in different venues and under different circumstances. Following the introduction in chapter 1, identity theft is defined in chapter 2 and distinguished from identity fraud. Chapter 3 discusses the types of identity theft crimes, which are identified as exploiting weakness within technologies and information systems, financial scams, and as crimes to avoid arrest. The extent and patterning of identity theft crimes are explored in chapter 4. The authors outline the geographic patterns and offense-specific patterns of identity theft in the United States and describe the victims, the offenders, and the relationships between them. Chapter 5 examines the various costs of identity theft, such as financial costs to businesses, individuals, and the criminal justice system. Chapter 6 reviews the research literature that attempts to explain the etiology of identity theft and how it is carried out; most perspectives focus on the role of opportunity in the commission of a theft of identity. Chapter 7 examines the law enforcement response to identity theft, focusing on how this crime is reported and recorded, recommendations for police responses, and cross jurisdictional challenges in the response to and prevention of identity theft. Chapter 8 analyzes State and Federal legislation aimed at combating identity theft and chapter 9 focuses on techniques to reduce identity theft. The final chapter offers conclusions and specific research recommendations that span the individual and organizational levels and include suggestions for examining offender behavior, vulnerable points in information systems, and agency risk factors. Tables, figures, footnotes, references, appendixes

Date Published: January 1, 2005