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Identity Theft Is Usually an Unsophisticated Crime

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    Last Updated: October 3, 2009


    apatrick writes “A recent research report by Heith Copes (University of Alabama at Birmingham) and Lynne Vieraitis (University of Texas at Austin) has examined identity thieves and their methods. Copes and Vieraitis searched federal court records in the US for people convicted of identity theft and then tried to find out where they were serving their sentences. They were able to find 297 inmates, from which they sampled 59 inmates in 14 prisons across the country. The convicts agreed to do detailed interviews, in private, to talk about themselves and their crimes, and the results are reported in a recent issue of Criminal Justice Review. According to Copes and Vieraitis, ‘it is best categorized as an economic crime committed by a wide range of people from diverse backgrounds through a variety of legitimate (e.g., mortgage broker) and illegitimate (e.g., burglar) occupations.’ As to the issue of whether these are white-collar criminals, the authors say: ‘Despite public perceptions of identity theft being a high-tech, computer driven crime, it is rather mundane and requires few technical skills. Identity thieves do not need to know how to hack into large, secure databases. They can simply dig through garbage or pay insiders for information. No particular group has a monopoly on the skills needed to be a capable identity thief.’”

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