ITRC Fact Sheet 114
The Identity Theft Evidence Trail
What Is Available and How Might It Help Victims and Law Enforcement

This guide includes:

Most victims agree – the burden of proving their innocence typically rests solidly on their shoulders. Many law enforcement agencies are receiving more budget money for financial crimes these days, allowing them to upgrade training and add staff, but they continue to struggle to keep up with their caseload.

In June 2004, the Cantwell/Enzi amendment of a federal bill called FACTA finally permitted ALL identity theft victims access to the credit applications and the transaction records in accounts opened fraudulently in their names. The reality is that once an account has been identified as fraudulent, the credit issuer must provide application and transaction information to you and to the designated police, as long as you send a police report with your request. That law is FCRA section 609(e).

Now that victims and their designated law enforcement agencies are being permitted access to documentation about their cases, such as photocopies of application forms, it is important to know what evidence is available and how it might help your case.

With this fact sheet, the ITRC is not encouraging any victim to take the law into his/her own hands. The primary investigator in a crime is, and needs to remain, law enforcement. Well-meaning victims can taint evidence, undo the work of weeks or months of an investigation, and undermine a case so much that the imposter, if caught, might be allowed to go free.

In our work with victims, we have found that many of us are unaware of what information is collected by credit card companies, utility companies, and merchants that can help law enforcement prove a case of identity theft. Again, we remind victims to coordinate their efforts with the investigator assigned to their case by law enforcement. Photocopies of all documents a victim is able to obtain should be turned over to his/her investigator immediately.


WHAT EVIDENCE IS OUT THERE?

Financial Identity Theft Cases

  • Application forms or application records
  • Signature cards – for any checking or bank account.
  • Credit history records, found on your credit report.
  • Transaction records – the individual purchase slips for any goods bought on a credit or debit card.
  • Billing statements
  • Records of calls made from a specific telephone number – part of the billing statement for a cell phone or telephone utility account.
  • Shipping records
  • Videotapes – often part of a security system monitoring cash registers. Some tapes are only kept 2-4 weeks and then reused.
  • Bankruptcy records

Criminal Identity Theft Cases

  • Department of Motor Vehicles records
  • Arrest records and outstanding warrants, criminal database searches
  • Passport records

Identity Assumption - “Cloning” - Cases (where the imposter uses your information to create a new life for himself/herself)

  • Social Security benefit records
  • Federal IRS tax records, state tax records
  • Employment records
  • Employee photos
  • Department of Motor Vehicles records
  • Credit history information (see financial identity theft, above)
  • Credit card and bank account records
  • Bankruptcy records
  • Mortgage and property records
  • Fictitious business name applications and records
  • Business licenses
  • Passport records
  • Medical and health insurance records
  • Personal records - these include but are not limited to: photos of parties that establish dates, doctor's reports as to your health condition (or lack thereof), vacation receipts for alibis, passport/visa stamps, etc.
  • School photographs
  • Family photographs or videos

HOW THIS INFORMATION FITS INTO AN INVESTIGATION

The above documentation can provide the following information that the victim and law enforcement can use to prove a case:

  • These records can help the victim to identify the imposter, especially if the suspect is someone personally known to the victim.
  • These records can provide proof that the signature on the form is not that of the victim.
  • Photo records can prove the true identity of the imposter and show conclusively that it is not the victim.
  • Records can shows trends valuable to police and to victims.
  • Records can provide names and addresses where merchandise was shipped. Keep in mind that this does NOT prove the person who received the merchandise is involved. He/she might be an innocent bystander whose address is used because they are at work during delivery times.
  • They can pinpoint the possible location of the imposter, for example, through a business license or traffic tickets.
  • Phone records or transactions could point to potential witnesses to the crime.
  • Records can establish the location of transactions and the number of imposters. For example, if the information is used in several locations at the same time, this may indicate several imposters are involved.
  • Such records can establish the method of theft.
  • The records might point to information that establishes how the original information was obtained. Examples include a middle initial that was used only on a cell phone application, a legal name only used for payroll purposes, etc.
  • Multiple fraudulent accounts might help to convince a bank or credit card company that this is a genuine act of identity theft and not just a customer finding a way to not pay a bill.
  • Finally, since many financial institutions and credit card companies require subpoenas prior to the release of information to law enforcement, such records could help investigators to specify exactly which documents are needed for court evidence in their warrants.

 

If you have any problems getting information, speak only with fraud investigators or supervisors who are the decision makers who can best help you.

 

This fact sheet should not be used in lieu of legal advice. Any requests to reproduce this material, other than by individual victims for their own use, should be directed toThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

 

 

 

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