Identity theft is such a complex and far-reaching crime that it can be hard to rely on only one avenue to fight it. As any victim can tell you, the different types of identity theft can mean that multiple agencies, law enforcement avenues, and organizations can be required to clear up the damage.
That’s why state and local governments around the country are organizing entire task forces made up of representatives from multiple agencies in order to create a one-stop-shop style of addressing this crime. The agencies who are coming together in this type of joint venture include representatives from law enforcement, the Internal Revenue Service, the US Postal Service, and more.
One city, Columbus, Georgia, has already brought together a task force which includes the IRS, the Postal Inspection Service, city and county law enforcement, and the US Attorney’s Office. The Identity Theft Task Force, under the direction of the Department of Justice, will assist victims in reporting and recovering from the crime, stay on top of pending threats to consumers’ identities, and become a centralized location for joint prosecution.
Consumers may wonder why the IRS and the postal service are involved in crime prevention, but tax refund fraud and postal fraud are two major contributors to identity theft. In fact, the most reported type of identity theft to the Identity Theft Resource Center’s 24-hour call center last month was government identity theft, of which tax refund fraud is typically at the heart of the issue. At the same time, the postal service has historically been a major factor in identity theft, as thieves access incoming or outgoing mail as a source of identification for the individuals they plan to victimize; mail fraud and other types of scams can also involve the postal service and therefore carry federal criminal charges.
Unfortunately, beneficial steps like a task force of this kind often only come about because of an increase in the crime. According to the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer, Columbus was the second highest city in the country in 2013 for reports of identity theft to the Federal Trade Commission. Thanks to serious efforts on the part of the local legal system, Columbus dropped from the number two spot to 22nd last year. But officials in the city aren’t resting on their laurels, and have admitted there is still a lot of work to be done.