Recently, NVRDC was awarded funding from Community Foundation of the National Capital Region to improve support to victims of identity theft in the District through our Identity Theft Assistance Project (ITAP). We sat down with Special Projects Coordinator Merry O'Brien to discuss how the project will enhance the community's ability to reach and serve victims.
How does NVRDC serve victims of financial crimes?
For over three years, NVRDC has served victims of all types of crime, including those impacted by identity theft, fraud, and financial exploitation.
When a survivor's personally identifiable information - also known as "PII" - has been compromised, NVRDC offers supportive case management, advocacy, and legal services at no cost to our clients in order to address any potential identity theft and fraud.
Sometimes this means providing assistance in reporting the crime to law enforcement and the Federal Trade Commission, discussing options such as fraud alerts and credit freezes, and preparing the survivor for re-victimization, especially in cases where the perpetrator is a family member or former partner who has had access to a great deal of the survivor's information.
What does a typical case involving identity theft look like?
When we think of identity theft, most of us recall a time when our credit card number or that of a family member was stolen electronically, and the bank was able to clear the issue rather quickly.
While these cases compromise the majority of incidents, there is a subset of cases that are far more complex and take many month, or even years, and thousands of dollars to resolve. These cases can cause severe emotional distress to victims.
An additional layer of risk is created when the perpetrator is a former intimate partner or family member who has had easy access to the survivor's PII. In cases like this, the perpetrator uses identity theft as a tool to exert power. For example, seeking safe housing, securing a new job, and even opening a new bank account can be very difficult for domestic violence victims whose abusers have used identity theft to ruin their credit or good name. In some cases, perpetrators may even use PII to assume the survivor's identity online in order to humiliate them or put them in danger.
NVRDC has seen many cases of identity theft involving an intimate partner, family member, or perpetrator of sexual assault who has stolen the survivor's PII when the initial crime was committed.
Do most survivors of financial crimes receive help?
Unfortunately, the majority of victims of identity theft in the District do not find resources to aid in their recovery. ITAP will seek to change that through training with partners, outreach, and enhanced ability to provide services to these survivors. If you have been victimized by identity theft or would like to learn more, please call NVRDC at 202.742.1727 to speak to an advocate.