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Understanding Identity Theft: Offenders' Accounts of Their Lives and Crimes

NCJ Number
228466
Author(s)
Heith Copes, Lynne M. Vieraitis
Date Published
September 2009
Length
21 pages
Annotation
This study interviewed a sample of identity thieves incarcerated in Federal prisons to offer the offenders' perspectives on existing research describing characteristics of thieves and the techniques they employed to complete their crimes.
Abstract
Results of the study showed that identity thieves were a diverse group. The majority of them were between the ages of 25 and 44 years, had at least some college, and were employed in a wide range of legitimate occupations. Although White offenders made up the largest proportion of offenders, African-Americans were overrepresented in relation to their distribution in the population. Offenders employed a variety of methods to acquire information and convert it to case. When seeking out identifying information, identity thieves were more likely to buy it from others. Those they purchased information from either obtained it from their place of employment or through other crimes like burglaries. Those obtaining information on their own typically did so by simple methods, such as dumpster diving or stealing from mailboxes. Depending on which perspective one adheres to, identity theft may or may not be classified as a white-collar crime committed by white-collar offenders. Researchers typically label acts as white-collar based on the respectable status of the offender or on the characteristics of the offense. However, some crimes, such as identity theft are not easily classified into either of these categories. This study was designed to contextualize previous research and to situate the crime of identity theft within these two broad perspectives of white-collar crime. To achieve this, 59 identity thieves incarcerated in Federal prisons were interviewed to offer the offenders' perspectives on existing research describing characteristics of thieves and the techniques they employ to complete their crimes. Tables, note, and references
Date Published: September 1, 2009