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Identity Theft

Statistical Information
Finding Articles
Finding Books
Internet Sites
Professional Organizations

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Topic Overview

Identity theft, which occurs when criminals steal personal consumer information, has become one of the fastest growing financial crimes. According to the CQ Researcher, "nearly 10 million consumers are affected annually by lost or stolen data at a cost to the economy of $53 billion." Criminals use the stolen information, often the person's Social Security number, to open new accounts and falsely impersonate others. The advent of the web has made consumers more vulnerable, as valuable personal information is often stored or transmitted on the internet, and even large financial and data-collection companies have become prey to hackers. Thus, variations on this topic include internet privacy, database security, and laws and legislation to stop identity fraud.

Terminology commonly associated with this topic includes:

identity theft
identity fraud
internet privacy
internet security
false personation
credit card fraud

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Background Sources

There are numerous sources appropriate for your research in the Undergraduate Library's Reference Collection. Those listed below provide excellent starting points for your research. If you need help identifying other sources, Ask a Librarian.

Suggested reference sources:
  • The Encyclopedia of High-Tech Crime and Crime-Fighting. Q. 364.168 N485e. With some 400 entries, this reference examines the crimes, criminals, and crime-fighting techniques resulting from modern high-tech innovations.
  • The Encyclopedia of Crime and Punishment. Q. 364.03 En193. A survey of the entire field of criminal justice.
  • Consumer Fraud: A Reference Handbook. 364.163 N79c. This is an introduction to the vast topic of consumer fraud, placing the wide variety of illegal practices in historical perspective.
  • No Place to Hide. 303.48330973 Oh19n. A Washington Post reporter examines the rise of the information industry and its effect on individuals — including identity-theft victims — with special attention to the “data-brokers” that compile profiles on millions of Americans.
  • CQ Researcher Online access. Provides original, comprehensive reporting and analysis on issues in the news (print copy in Undergraduate periodicals).

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Statistical Information

Statistical information can be found in many sources, both print and online. Given the necessary time for a book to come to press the most recent information is likely to be found online. Note, as well, statistical sources cited in background and reference sources you consult. See if you can locate more recent versions of these.

Online statistical resources:
  • Statistical Universe (Lexis-Nexis) - Provides government statistics, business, trade, and research information, and private and international statistical information. U.S. government statistics go back to 1973 and private and state sources go back to 1980.

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Finding Articles

Articles are a valuable resource in any research paper or project. Articles (as opposed to books) generally possess the following characteristics:

Shorter length
Currency of information
Focus on a specific aspect of a topic

Suggested keywords for this topic:

False personation
Identity theft
Computer networks -- Security measures
Data protection -- Law & legislation
Database security
Internet fraud
Credit card fraud

Check the subject headings/descriptors for individual articles in your searches and repeat your search using these terms. Please note, subject headings are not consistent across databases

Recommended Article Databases:

General Interest Databases (cover a variety of subjects/topics)
Discipline Specific Databases (focus on a specific discipline or collection of related disciplines)

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Finding Books

Books are another valuable resource in any research paper or project. Books (as opposed to articles) generally possess the following characteristics:

Longer in length
Good sources of background and historical information
Often contain footnotes and lengthy bibliographies

Suggested subject headings for this topic:

Identity theft--United States.
False personation--United States.
False personation--United States--Prevention
Consumer protection--United States.
Fraud--United States
Credit cards--Forgeries--United States.
Identification cards--Forgeries--United States.
Privacy, Right of--United States.

Book Catalogs:

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Recommended Internet Sites

The following Internet sites have been reviewed and recommended by the Undergraduate Library as credible academic resources for this topic.

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Professional Organizations

The organizations linked below are all associated with this subject and may contain information relevant to your research.

  • Consumer.gov - The US government's central website for information about identity theft, the fastest growing Internet crime.
  • Privacy Rights: Identity Theft Resources - The Privacy Rights Clearinghouse (PRC) is a nonprofit consumer organization with a two-part mission — consumer information and consumer advocacy.
  • National Conference of State Legisalatures - Features current statutes, pending legislation, and publications on identity theft.
  • Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) - a nonprofit, nationally respected program dedicated exclusively to identity theft. It provides consumer and victim support and advises governmental agencies, legislators and companies about this evolving and growing crime.

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Updated: 7/26/05