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Identity Thieves

Motives and Methods

Heith Copes

Publication Year: 2012

The first book to examine identity theft from the offender’s perspective Although identity theft is one of the fastest growing economic crimes in the United States, researchers have devoted little attention to understanding identity thieves. Basing their work on interviews with 59 inmates serving time in federal prison for a variety of identity theft crimes, Copes and Vieraitis use criminological and sociological theories to gain insight into the cognitive, behavioral, and organizational aspects of identity theft. They also offer policy recommendations to reduce the ever-increasing threat of this crime.

Published by: Northeastern University Press


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pp. c-ii

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. iii-iv


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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-x

Examined over the span of centuries, images of crime—and of the faces of those who commit crimes—create a shifting mosaic. Crimes once commonplace disappear or decline in significance, while newer ones appear and take on greater importance in the public mind. Stalking, environmental degradation, and Internet child pornography were not part of crime in most Western nations...

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pp. xi-xvi

This book is the culmination of our concerted effort to interview identity thieves and organize their accounts. The idea of the project came about when the two of us, who had worked across the hall from each other for several years, concluded that collaboration would be fruitful and rewarding. After brainstorming on potential projects, we serendipitously found an article on identity theft and...

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pp. 1-14

The 2002 movie Catch Me If You Can portrayed the life and crimes of Frank Abagnale, perhaps one of the most famous fraudsters in American history. He gained notoriety for the young age (sixteen) at which he began his crimes, and for the daring and creative methods he used to con people into thinking he was a Pan Am airline pilot, a pediatrician in Atlanta, and an attorney in the Louisiana...

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1 | Profiles

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pp. 15-36

The paucity of research on identity theft, coupled with the low arrest rate of identity thieves, has made it difficult to form a clear picture of the “typical” offender. What type of person steals someone else’s identity and uses it for personal gain? Does a typical profile of an identity thief even exist? Are they similar to other...

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2 | Why They Steal

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pp. 37-64

It is not unreasonable to assume that many of us have contemplated committing a crime at some point in our lives. We may have visualized taking a coveted toy from a friend’s home, or stealing a candy bar our mother refused to buy from the grocery store. We may have even contemplated seizing opportunities for more serious forms of crime that, at least on the surface, appeared to be...

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3 | How They Do It

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pp. 65-94

Decades of interviewing offenders—in interrogation rooms, jail cells, and on the streets—have taught us that the criminally inclined are adept at recognizing and exploiting criminal opportunities. This ability to see and exploit an opportunity is typically developed through experience or tutelage from others.1 Although it is possible to be successful at crime with few or no criminal associates...

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4 | How They Reduce Risk

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pp. 95-120

Most persistent offenders give little thought to the possibility of a lengthy prison sentence when in the midst of a crime. Instead, they focus on the potential rewards of the crime and on the technical challenges it poses. The potential for arrest is approached as a problem to be overcome, not something to agonize over or weigh in fine detail.1 Drug addicts in particular may be willfully inattentive ...

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5 | Theoretical and Policy Implications

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pp. 121-140

The past few decades have witnessed a dramatic decrease in crime rates throughout the United States. Scholars have offered numerous explanations for the drop in crime, including the stabilization of drug markets, increased incarceration rates, an aging population, and innovative strategies implemented by police.1 More recently, some have suggested that a decline in the use of cash may...

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Methodological Appendix

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pp. 141-152

Criminologists have a long history of interviewing those engaged in illegal behaviors to gain insights into the nature of crime and criminality. Ethnographic interviews allow offenders to explain their offenses and lifestyles from their own perspectives. This is important because those engaged in criminal activities are in the “unique position of being able to describe, in their own words, the...


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pp. 153-160


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pp. 161-170


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pp. 171-176

E-ISBN-13: 9781555537685
E-ISBN-10: 1555537685
Print-ISBN-13: 9781555537869
Print-ISBN-10: 1555537863

Page Count: 192
Publication Year: 2012