By Ron Green, Senior Vice President in Information Security, Bank of America
ne year ago, Bank of America and the IACP launched a unique three-year partnership. The goal: a nationwide strategy to combat identity crime by educating both consumers and law enforcement officials.
To date, the partnership has enjoyed considerable success. In the first year, a plan was developed for a comprehensive, multifaceted approach to prevent identity crime, to investigate and respond to incidents, and to help victims more effectively.
Four working groups composed of law enforcement leaders, bankers, prosecutors, and government officials have been busy developing resources for consumers, victims, the law enforcement community, and the banking industry. The working groups have already accomplished many of their objectives and are providing critical resources to the law enforcement community. The project’s first accomplishment was the launch of a comprehensive Web site, www.idsafety.org . The site—a first for the banking industry and the law enforcement community—was named “Best in Class” by the Interactive Media Awards, its highest award.
The ID Safety Web site allows law enforcement organizations around the country to share best practices, helps them understand and cope with identity crime, and guides them through sometimes confusing processes of investigation and response. The site also contains tips to help consumers guard against identity theft.
Year of Preventing Identity Crime
Bank of America and the IACP maintained the momentum of these advances when they kicked off the “Year of Preventing Identity Crime” at the IACP annual conference in New Orleans in October. Through this effort, the partnership hopes to raise awareness of key identity crime issues facing the law enforcement community.
The primary vehicle for this campaign will be The Police Chief, the official publication of the IACP. Every month, the Identity Crime Project will publish a short article by a subject matter expert on such topics as consumer recovery, the role of law enforcement in preventing and responding to identity crimes, prosecution of identity crimes, international perspectives, identity crime and terrorism, and banking-police partnerships, among others.
Through this yearlong effort, it is hoped that law enforcement leaders will become better informed about the many facets of identity crime and, as a result, be better prepared to investigate incidents and meet the needs of the growing number of identity crime victims.
New Resources to Fight Identity Crime
Several important resources were also released at the conference in New Orleans:
- A “Police Chiefs Toolkit”
- An interactive map on the ID Safety Web site
- An identity theft prevention tip sheet for consumers
- A comprehensive prevention and recovery toolkit for victims
The “Police Chiefs Toolkit” covers the essential issues facing law enforcement leaders regarding identity crime and encourages them to assume leadership in stressing the importance of preventing and responding to identity crime; to train officers on helping victims and investigating identity crime; to create partnerships with other law enforcement agencies, prosecutors, and the business community; and to educate the public on how to prevent and respond to identity crimes.
The interactive map on the ID Safety Web site provides comprehensive state-specific information on existing identity crime laws, pending legislation, and available resources for victims. We hope it will serve as “one stop shopping” for consumers, identity theft victims, and the law enforcement community regarding identity crime laws and resources in any jurisdiction.
The identity theft prevention tip sheet for consumers will be distributed at Bank of America branches, at local police departments, and on the Web. It is complemented by a more comprehensive prevention and recovery toolkit for victims that local police departments can distribute. Victims of identity crime are often uncertain about the steps they should take if they suspect or discover identity crime. A report from the U.S. Federal Trade Commission found that in 2005, barely one-third of identity crime victims even contacted police to report their losses.1 Clearly, more needs to be done to help victims get on the road to recovery as quickly as possible; this toolkit includes a detailed checklist of steps that identity crime victims should take, as well as supplementary tools such as an identity theft affidavit and correspondence charts.
At the same time, the partnership is launching an education campaign called “Take the Report” to encourage law enforcement officers to take police reports from identity crime victims to help start them on the long road to recovery. This is a critical step, since identity theft victims must provide a copy of the police report to banks, creditors, credit bureaus, debt collectors, and other businesses.
To advance investigative techniques, Bank of America will soon begin a pilot program with several police departments across the country to test a new “uniform law enforcement record request,” which will allow law enforcement officials to more quickly access financial information critical to the investigation of identity crimes. If the pilot program is successful, it may be expanded nationwide and may eventually be implemented by other banks.
Finally, training venues for both the financial and law enforcement communities are currently under development, including the use of Webinars and other electronic media.
Bank of America is pleased to fund this critical effort as part of its commitment to its customers. The resources of the banking industry can and should be applied to help the law enforcement community investigate and prosecute the perpetrators of identity crime.
A Growing Problem
According to a recent study, 8.4 million U.S. citizens, or 1 in 27, were victims of identity crime in 2006.2 That means 23,000 people were victimized every day. That’s too many. Identity crime is a deeply personal, invasive crime. The harm done can have an impact beyond the immediate difficulties faced by victims, as identity thieves often continue to commit crimes using the personal identifying information that has been compromised, stolen, or altered. For these reasons, identity crime has the potential to become a major public safety issue—if it is not one already.
The Bank of America–IACP partnership is determined to have an impact on this issue. Many objectives have already been achieved. While existing resources have helped, the new resources announced in New Orleans and the resources still to come will be of great use to law enforcement leaders—here in the United States and around the world—in combating the growing menace of identity crime.
Please join your fellow law enforcement leaders and Bank of America in participating in the “Year of Preventing Identity Crime” to help the victims of this crime and to better protect the communities we all serve.■
1U.S. Federal Trade Commission, Consumer Fraud and Identity Theft Complaint Data, January–December 2005, January 2006, http://www.consumer.gov/sentinel/pubs/Top10Fraud2005.pdf (accessed October 4, 2007), 14.
2Javelin Strategy & Research, 2007 Identity Fraud Survey Report—Consumer Version: How Consumers Can Protect Themselves, by Rachel Kim, February 2007, http://www.acxiom.com/AppFiles/Download18/Javelin_ID_Theft_Consumer_Report-627200734724.pdf (accessed October 4, 2007), 5.