The Committee on Energy and Commerce
W.J. "Billy" Tauzin, Chairman
Assessing the Problem and Efforts to Combat It.
Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations
December 15, 2003
Middletown Township Municipal Building, 3 Municipal Way, Langhorne, Pennsylvania
Lieutenant Colonel Ralph
Pennsylvania State Police
Deputy Commissioner, Operations
1800 Elmerton Avenue
Harrisburg, PA, 17110
Good morning Mr. Chairman and members of the Committee. I
am Lt. Col. Ralph M. Periandi, Deputy Commissioner of Operations
for the Pennsylvania State Police. On behalf of Colonel Jeffrey
B. Miller, Commissioner of the Pennsylvania State Police, I
would like to thank the House Energy and Commerce Committee
for this opportunity today to speak on the issue of Identity
Identity Theft is delineated in Title 18, the Pennsylvania
Crimes Code, Section 4120. This statute indicates a person
commits the offense of identity theft of another person if
he possesses or uses, through any means, identifying information
of another person without consent of that other person to further
any unlawful purpose. The unlawful activity could involve a
criminal utilizing a victim's personal information in order
to obtain access to loans, credit or debit cards, bank accounts,
services such as telephone or cable, or personal property ranging
from groceries to automobiles. Following the tragic events
of September 11, 2001, law enforcement must also consider the
use of another persons identifying information by criminals
or terrorists in an attempt to gain access to restricted areas/information
in order to further their criminal
In recent years, the crime of Identity Theft has grown in
scope with the advent of the inexpensive personal computer.
Those criminals possessing familiarity with computers now have
powerful resources at their disposal. By obtaining personal
biographical and financial information, which is readily available
on the Internet, an identity thief can pose as anyone. Additionally,
by utilizing the wide range of high quality computer peripherals
available, they are able to craft documents and identification,
which allow them to create new identities or steal the identity
of someone else. Another computer aided method of committing
Identity Theft is known as "skimming". "Skimming" is
the practice of reading and storing the magnetic information
on a debit or credit card. It is easily accomplished by those
service or retail industry by "swiping" a provided credit or debit
card through a second card reader at the time of a legitimate transaction. The
stored information is then used by that individual or sold to others for criminal
Conversely, the technologically challenged identity thief
continues to resort to time tested low-tech methods for obtaining
the personal information of a victim. Stealing mail and digging
through garbage generally provides the criminal with extensive
personal information to include the victim's full name, date
of birth, social security number, bank account information,
utilities account information, address, and telephone number.
Armed with this knowledge, the identity thief is ready to apply
for credit or access funds in the name of
Currently, the best source for documented statistical information
concerning the problem of Identity Theft is the Federal Trade
Commission (FTC). The FTC has been maintaining data and information
regarding this crime since enactment of the Identity Theft
and Assumption Deterrence Act in 1998. (Pub. L. No. 105 - 318,
112 Stat. 3007) In furtherance of this Act, the FTC developed
the Identity Theft Data Clearinghouse and its reporting vehicle,
the Consumer Sentinel. To quantify the problem of identity
theft, the following information is provided from the Consumer
- Of 380,103 fraud complaints received nationally in 2002,
category of complaint was Identity theft at 43%.
- The Financial costs to victims of all fraud reported in
the nation during the
year 2002 is estimated at nearly ½ billion dollars. 43% of this figure would
indicate Identity Theft nationwide cost victims approximately $200 Million.
- Individual victim cost per fraud is estimated at $2,000.
- National reporting of Identity Theft has steadily increased
since the year 2000. In 2000, which represents the first
full year of reporting, 31,117 reports were received. During
2001, 86,198 reports were received. This increase indicates
a 177% change over the previous year. Finally, in 2002, 161,819
reports were received, which represents an 88% increase over
the year 2001.
- In the year 2002, 75% of victims were between the ages
of 18 - 49.
- Of 13,119 fraud complaints received in Pennsylvania during
2002, the largest category of complaint was Identity theft
at 39% of all complaints.
- In 2002, Pennsylvania ranked 22nd among states for victims
of Identity Theft
per 100,000 population, with 5,080 victims.
- The top three crimes committed in concert with an Identity
Theft in Pennsylvania during 2002 were Credit Card Fraud
with 2,359 victims (46%), Phone or Utilities Fraud with 1,103
victims (22%), and Bank Fraud with 623 victims
- The top three victim locations for Identity Theft in 2002
were Philadelphia with 1,202 victims (24%), Pittsburgh with
226 victims (5%), and Allentown with
70 victims (1%).
Continuing, in an effort to quantify this problem since the
inception of the Pennsylvania statute regarding Identity Theft
in 2001, the Pennsylvania State Police have received 714 complaints
involving this crime. 302 were received in the year 2001, while
412 were received in 2002. This represents a 27% increase.
This data provides a general overview of the raw, cold statistical
information regarding the crime of Identity Theft. What it
does not provide is insight into the associated emotional problems
victims of this crime encounter. Many individuals do not discover
they are the victim of Identity Theft for months, if not years.
Some victims have been duped for as long as five years. Upon
discovery, victims must spend significant amounts of time contacting
creditors and credit reporting agencies in an attempt to repair
the damage to their credit histories. While this is occurring,
they are often unable to obtain credit and financial services,
telecommunication and utility services, and even employment.
Many victims report having wages garnished and tax refunds
withheld. In those instances when an identity thief has received
a criminal record in the victim's name, victims have reported
having licenses revoked, failing background checks, and even
being arrested or detained.
Combating the crime of Identity Theft in Pennsylvania requires
law enforcement to achieve three main objectives. First, law
enforcement personnel must be properly trained and informed
regarding this crime. Second, they must be appropriately staffed
with criminal investigators to conduct these sometimes in-depth
and lengthy investigations. Finally, the public needs to be
provided with information concerning methods to protect themselves
from Identity Theft, as well as information regarding the steps
to take should they become a victim. Each of these objectives
will be explored more fully.
In Pennsylvania, the State Police are tasked with providing
police services to those areas and citizens, who find themselves
without their own police department. We are a full service
department, performing functions ranging from traffic enforcement
to criminal investigations. Our criminal investigators are
responsible for the investigation of all types of crime. As
such, our investigators must receive training and obtain expertise
in all facets of criminal investigations. Training specific
to Identity Theft and fraud is available to them and Pennsylvania's
law enforcement community through numerous sources. Some examples
are: the Pennsylvania State Police Academy; the Middle Atlantic-Great
Lakes Organized Crime Law Enforcement Network (MAGLOCLEN);
the National White Collar Crime Center (NW3C); the International
Association of Financial Crimes Investigators; the U. S. Department
of Justice; and local
Generally, individual instances of Identity Theft are investigated
by a Criminal Investigator assigned to one of our Troop commands.
In those instances when a case of Identity Theft is indicative
of organized criminal activity, the Pennsylvania State Police
rely upon the Organized Crime Division of the Bureau of Criminal
Investigation. Members of this specially selected group of
investigators are strategically located in task forces throughout
Pennsylvania. They work with their Troop counterparts, as well
as local and federal investigators on cases involving large
monetary losses, which are usually associated with organized
groups of criminals. These groups may be associated with traditional
organized crime, displaced ethnic groups, or simply enterprising
local criminals. Identity Theft is increasingly becoming an
international crime with roots in Canada, Eastern Europe, Asia
and Africa. This has made prosecution difficult and in some
cases impossible even with the involvement of federal law enforcement
In an attempt to deter or mitigate the crime of Identity Theft,
the Pennsylvania State Police provide the following information
to law enforcement
agencies and the general public:
How Do I Protect Myself?
These and other protective measures will not absolutely guarantee
you will never become a victim of Identity Theft, but employing
one or more of these can
drastically reduce your risk:
- Give your social security number only when it is absolutely
necessary, and do not carry your social security card with
you. Leave it at home or in a secure
- Annually review your social security personal earnings
and benefit statement which is mailed to all participants.
A copy can also be requested from the Social Security Administration
- Memorize your ATM password and shield the keypad when
entering your password
at ATM machines.
- Do not place bill payments in your mailbox for pickup.
Mail your bills
directly from the post office.
- Shred all documents containing personal information especially
bills, credit card receipts, pre-approved credit card offers,
and bank statements, before you
throw them away.
- Annually obtain a copy of your credit report from the
three major credit reporting agencies (Trans Union, 1.800.680.7289)
(Equifax, 1.888.766.0008) (Experian, 1.888.397.3742). A basic
report costs $9.00 from any of the three agencies. Certain
states have passed legislation giving residents free or reduced
prices on credit reports. Carefully review them for accuracy
and immediately correct all mistakes identified on your credit
reports in writing.
- Have your name removed from lists sold to companies offering
pre approved credit cards by contacting the three credit
reporting agencies and taking
advantage of their "opt out" service. One number, 1.888.567.8688, reaches
all three agencies.
- Do not give your credit card number over the telephone
unless you have initiated the call. Ensure that neither you
nor the called party is using a
mobile or cellular telephone.
- When you purchase items with a credit card, take your
receipts with you, do
not toss them away.
- Do not put your credit card number on the Internet unless
it is an encrypted
or secured site.
What If I Become A Victim of Identity Theft?
Identity Theft can occur even if you have been careful about
protecting your personal information because of the ever-increasing
skill employed by professional thieves. The exact steps that
you should take after becoming a victim of Identity Theft will
vary depending upon your circumstances, but in most instances,
the following steps should be taken:
- Contact the security department of the respective financial
institution, both verbally and in writing, for each account
that has been opened or tampered with and close these accounts.
The federal Fair Credit Billing Act limits your liability
for unauthorized charges to $50.00, but it's your responsibility
to make the appropriate notification, in writing, within
60 days after the fraudulent activity has been discovered.
Once the financial institution acknowledges the fraud, ask
them to send all three credit reporting agencies a letter
confirming fraudulent activity.
- In the past, one necessary step included contact with
each of the nation's three major credit reporting agencies
(TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian). In an effort to streamline
the process, the credit reporting agencies have agreed to
begin sharing fraud related information. As of April 15,
2003, Identity Theft victims need only make one toll-free
call to any of the three nationwide credit reporting agencies.
The information they provide will be automatically shared
with the remaining agencies for inclusion in their records.
Within 24 hours of being notified, each credit reporting
agency will post a security alert on the victim's credit
file, which will be viewed by all lenders or other users
accessing future reports. The alert will notify lenders of
the reported fraud, thereby assisting them to avoid opening
a fraudulent account in the victim's name. The credit reporting
agencies will also remove the victim's name from the lists
of pre-approved credit or insurance offers for a period of
two years. Additionally, the agencies have agreed to provide
each victim with a copy of his or her credit file, and to
simplify the information verification process to include
deletion of fraudulent information.
- File a complaint with your local police department or
the law enforcement agency where the Identity Theft took
place. Also, file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission
(FTC) Identity Theft Hotline by telephone at 1.877.IDTHEFT.
Although the FTC has no criminal law enforcement authority,
they can pursue civil remedies and assist victims in resolving
associated with the crime.
- Report the fraudulent use of your social security number
to the United States Social Security Administration at 1.800.269.0271.
Under certain circumstances, a new social security number
may be issued.
- Notify your nearest United States Postal Inspection Service
if you suspect
the theft of your mail.
- If your ATM card has been lost or if your password has
been compromised, immediately notify your bank. The Electronic
Fund Transfer Act limits your losses to $50.00 if you make
this report within two business days. If you wait more than
60 days to make the report, you could lose all the money
taken from your account.
- If checks were stolen or fraudulent bank accounts were
established, report this to your bank and to the major check
verification companies (Telecheck, 1.800.710.9898) (Certegy
Inc., 1.800.437.5120) (International Check Services, 1.800.631.9656).
Request they notify retailers who use their service that
were the victim of Identity Theft.
- If you're a victim of Identity Theft, never agree to pay
any portion of the debt just to get collection agencies off
the case. The Fair Debt Collection Act prohibits collectors
from contacting you if within 30 days after you receive their
written notice, you send them a letter refuting the debt.
Along with your letter, send supporting documentation (police
report, letters from credit reporting agencies, etc.) to
substantiate your position.
Unfortunately, it is impossible to protect yourself entirely
from Identity Theft, but following the safeguards detailed
herein can certainly reduce your risk. Publications by the
Federal Trade Commission (FTC) can provide further information
on how to prevent Identity Theft. These publications can be
obtained by contacting the FTC by telephone at 1-877-IDTHEFT
or by visiting their web sites at http://www.ftc.gov or at
http://www.consumer.gov. Phone counselors at the FTC can assist
callers on how to take advantage of their consumer rights and
on what actions need to be taken to restore their credit.
Additionally, The Pennsylvania State Police provides numerous
other services to Pennsylvania's citizenry and law enforcement
community in dealing with the problem of Identity Theft. The
Bureau of Forensic Services offers examination of questioned
documents, handwriting comparisons, and patent and latent fingerprint
identification and comparison. The Polygraph Unit in many instances
is required to determine the veracity of involved suspects.
The Community Services Unit performs speeches and provides
information to community groups concerning how to reduce the
probability of becoming a victim of this type of crime. The
Bureau of Criminal Investigation through the Department's 'Pennsylvania
Criminal Intelligence Center' (PaCIC), provides Briefs, which
contain information concerning prevention and response methods
for crimes such as Identity Theft. In addition, ongoing analysis
of data helps PaCIC to identify trends in an effort to alert
law enforcement statewide to potential organized efforts to
commit Identity Theft. Finally, with the advent and ease of
access to computer technology, the State Police Area Computer
Crime Task Forces have become an invaluable resource to Pennsylvania
law enforcement, particularly in those instances when a computer
has been utilized in some way to steal an individual's identity
or commit a crime utilizing another's identity.
As you can see, the Pennsylvania State Police brings a wide
variety of investigative resources to combat the evolving problem
of Identity Theft in the Commonwealth. Through experience,
we have learned to utilize and share these resources with local,
state and federal investigators. Only by sharing resources
and staying ahead of the criminal mind will we be effective
in this crime
Finally, recent legislative changes to Pennsylvania's Identity
Theft statute have made investigation and prosecution for this
crime a more efficient and effective process. Penalties have
been stiffened and venue now includes the residence or employment
address of the person whose identifying information has been
lost or stolen or has been used without the person's consent.
The clarification of venue is particularly important as many
of the crimes associated with Identity Theft occur in other
jurisdictions, states, or
In closing, I would like to thank the Chairman and members
of the Committee for the opportunity to address you today on
this issue. As a member of the Pennsylvania State Police, each
officer carries on a tradition of excellence begun in the year
1905. As part of this tradition, it is the mission of each
member to effectively investigate crime and criminal activity,
provide investigative assistance and support to ALL law enforcement
agencies within the Commonwealth, and promote public awareness
concerning personal responsibility regarding crime reduction.
This includes the crime of Identity Theft. I welcome the opportunity
to respond to any questions or comments you may have.