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And Congress Wasn't Afraid to Ask


ID Theft graphicEarlier this month Chris Swecker, our top Criminal Investigative exec, testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee on a subject close to all of our hearts...and worries:

Identity theft.

You know, that new phenomenon that lets thieves clear out your bank accounts, borrow money in your name, and open new bank and credit card accounts that can be used to commit credit card fraud, check fraud, mortgage fraud, and health care fraud...to name a few...and all at your expense.

We've used this page many times to outline identity theft scams and their consequences...and to tell you how to protect yourself in the first place. But Chris takes a different tack—he takes you behind the scenes to talk about numbers and trends, challenges and investigative strategies.

We'd like you to read the complete testimony, but thought you'd be at least interested in some highlights. For example:

  • We currently have over 1,600 active investigations on the books...and expect the number to continue increasing in the future.
  • Since our Internet Crime Complaint Center opened its door on the web in May 2000, it has gotten over 100,000 identity theft-related complaints.

Why is identity theft almost uniquely hard to quantify? Because it crosses all investigative program lines—not only the universe of criminal frauds, but also cyber crimes, violent crimes, organized crimes, terrorism—any criminal or national security plot at all that uses identity theft to get money and evade detection. And, in the case of cyber scams, they can be launched from anywhere in the world.

How are we combatting it? Investigative partnerships with federal, state, and local law enforcement (including dedicated task forces in major cities). Information-sharing partnerships with every sector of business, government, education, finance, communications, and health. Reaching out to you to make sure you don't let it happen to you...and opening a case when it does.

How are we preventing it? By developing financial crimes intelligence from electronic commercial and government data sources, which allows us to identify and stop criminal organizations in their early stages. Read the full testimony to learn how the FBI balances privacy concerns with its investigative use of these commercial databases.

Bottom line: Chris outlines four recent cases that show how criminals breach the security of providers of public source data and run off with the names and social security numbers of thousands of people. It's our aim to stop that from happening.