Working with law enforcement agencies to educate on identity theft and cybercrime, their scope, their legal obligations to victims, and victim assistance resources available will help to improve the capacity of law enforcement to respond to victims and improve the experience victims’ face in recovering from identity theft or cybercrime.
Cybercrime Community Awareness and Prevention is a program developed through the collaborative efforts of the National White Collar Crime Center (NW3C), International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), and the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (the COPS Office), U.S. Department of Justice. The program consists of nine training modules designed to be presented after training by law enforcement to the public via community outreach. The modules include identity theft, medical fraud, credit and debit card fraud, and computer crimes. The program includes PowerPoint presentations on each topic, an instructor guide, and brochures in multiple languages.
The Colorado Bureau of Investigation Identity Theft, Fraud & Cyber Crimes Investigations Unit offers distance training options specifically designed for Law Enforcement powered by SABA. The training will also be available via traditional webinar formats. Options will include sessions regarding the Basics of ID Theft, Tips and Tools for Investigators, Fraudulent Document Detection, Cyber Related ID Theft and Fraud, Investigating Romance Scams, What a S.A.R. Can Do To Enhance ID Theft/Fraud Investigations, and much more. For more information, please email Hazel Heckers firstname.lastname@example.org.
Communicating with Victims
The Identity Theft Resource Center offers guidelines to law enforcement for communication with victims:
When a victim contacts law enforcement, your agenda as an investigator may be different than the victim’s. Law enforcement agencies who are successful realize that by developing a relationship with a victim, he or she becomes an asset to the investigation. The key is communication and listening to a victim’s concerns while gathering information for the case.
- Outline the purpose for the meeting or call: You are here to gather the details of the case, any documents they may have, and to answer any questions they may have about clearing their name or about law enforcement’s handling of an identity theft case.
- Go through your intake form; get all the information you need.
- In cases of criminal ID theft, help the victim to secure the necessary paperwork to get a Letter of Clearance. See ITRC Fact Sheet 110 on criminal identity theft.
- Tell victims what it is like behind the scenes of a fraud investigation and the facts — that the case will take time, and why. See ITRC Fact Sheet 112 on enhancing identity theft victim and investigator communications. This will provide a better understanding of what the victim needs and their responsibilities in developing a working relationship with law enforcement.
- Information a victim might want to know includes:
- What are the steps law enforcement must follow to prove this case?
- How is evidence gathered, stored and presented to the court? Victims need to know that papers they submit may not be considered legal evidence and why.
- What are your procedures from this point forward? What are law enforcement’s priorities on the case?
- How many cases are you handling right now? This gives victims an idea of how much time you can dedicate to their case.
- How long can investigations take?
- Will you remain the primary investigator on the case? A victim wants to know who to contact.
- What should victims do if they get more information that may help or get another collection notice? Should they call you, email, or mail a copy of the information?
- How soon will it be until they can get a hard copy of the police report? What are the procedures for getting a report?
- What can victims be doing now? Is there something they can do to move things along faster? Is there any action they might take that would harm the case?
- What are the chances of getting the criminal? If you don’t think this case can be solved, tell the victim so and help him/her reset priorities — clearing his/her name and credit history.
Most states have laws requiring law enforcement agencies to take a police report of identity theft and provide a copy of that report to the victim. To become familiar with any obligations your area’s law enforcement agencies may be bound by, so that you can incorporate this knowledge into your community training programs, go to NITVAN’s State Law and Resources section.
The Federal Trade Commission offers the Consumer Sentinel Network, an investigative cyber tool providing access to identity theft statistics based on complaints received directly by the FTC and data contributors. When customizing law enforcement training programs for your community, you may want to include data specific to your state, to give attendees an understanding of the scope of the problem. You may also want to use the training to encourage your local law enforcement agencies to become members of the Sentinel program, to aid law enforcement in identifying crime trends and patterns, and enhance their investigative capabilities.
The International Association of Chiefs of Police has a website called Identity Crime, designed to help consumers and law enforcement combat identity theft crimes. On the site you will find information tailored for law enforcement including: toolkits for investigators and police executives, prevention, recovery, and training materials.
The IRS offers a Law Enforcement Assistance Program on Identity Theft. This program aids law enforcement in obtaining tax return data that is needed in efforts to investigate and prosecute specific cases of identity theft. Any law enforcement interested in working with the IRS can contact their local IRS Criminal Investigation Field Office.
Check out NITVAN’s Join a Coalition page to see if there is a coalition servicing your area that your agency can partner with to improve officer knowledge and the ability to assist victims of identity theft.