Reporting behaviors of identity theft victims: an empirical test of Black’s theory of law

Author:Katelyn A. Golladay
Position:Arizona State University, Phoenix, USA
Pages:101-117
SUMMARY

Purpose This paper aims to examine factors that influence the decision to report by victims of identity theft victimization. The study of victim decision-making is not new within the field of criminology; however, a majority of the research has focused on decision-making surrounding victims of intimate partner violence and other violent offenses. With the increase of identity theft,... (see full summary)

 
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Reporting behaviors of identity
theft victims: an empirical test of
Black’s theory of law
Katelyn A. Golladay
Arizona State University, Phoenix, USA
Abstract
Purpose This paper aims to examine factors that inuence the decision to report by victims of identity
theft victimization. The study of victim decision-making is not new within the eld of criminology; however,
a majority of the research has focused on decision-making surrounding victims of intimate partner violence
and other violent offenses. With the increase of identity theft, knowledge on how a growth in such a crime
inuences victims is of great concern.
Design/methodology/approach Guided by Donald Black’s theory of the behavior of law, this study
will use the 2012 Identity Theft Supplement of the National Crime Victimization Survey to identify factors that
inuence whether victims of identity theft report the crime to credit agencies and/or authorities.
Findings This study nds that measures that inuence reporting behaviors differ based on the method of
reporting (i.e. reporting to a credit card company, law enforcement or a credit bureau). These ndings provide
little support for Black’s theory of law, but have several theoretical and policy implications.
Originality/value This study provides a partial test of Black’s theory of law, as it applies to identity theft
victims. While providing little support for the theory, the ndings identify many areas that agencies and
researchers can use to help further inform their studies and practices.
Keywords Identity theft, Victimization, Black’s theory of law, Decision to report
Paper type Research paper
Introduction
Identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes (Piquero et al., 2011). About 15 per cent of
all people will experience identity theft at one point during their lifetime, which translates to
about 36.5 million individuals (Harrell, 2015). This alone stresses the importance of studying
identity theft and its victims. In 2014 alone, about 7 per cent of people over the age of 16 years
experienced identity theft, which is a slight increase from 2012 (Harrell and Langton, 2013;
Harrell, 2015). However, these numbers are likely understated because of the infrequency of
victims reporting their identity theft victimization. With these growing numbers of identity
theft victims, it is vital to study these victims and determine how they may differ from
victims of property and violent crimes. Given that a large number of victims choose not to
report their identity theft victimization, empirical research on reporting behaviors of these
victims is imperative.
Much of the research on identity theft victims has focused on demographic characteristics
of victims. This alone tells us who the victims are and helps predict who may be at risk of
identity theft; however, little is known about the victim following their victimization.
The author thanks Kristy Holtfreter for her constructive feedback on earlier versions of this paper.
Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Katelyn Golladay, School of Criminology
and Criminal Justice, Arizona State University, 411 N. Central Avenue, Phoenix, AZ, 85004, e-mail:
kwattana25@gmail.com
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available on Emerald Insight at:
www.emeraldinsight.com/1359-0790.htm
Identity theft
victims
101
Journalof Financial Crime
Vol.24 No. 1, 2017
pp.101-117
©Emerald Publishing Limited
1359-0790
DOI 10.1108/JFC-01-2016-0010
Specically, given the unique nancial nature of the crime, do victims of identity theft exhibit
the same types of reporting behaviors as victims of property and violent crimes?
The current study seeks to examine factors that may inuence whether a victim of
identity theft reports their victimization to their credit card company, law enforcement or a
credit bureau. This topic is of considerable importance because unlike many other victims,
victims of identity theft often do not know anything about the offender, they experience a
direct nancial loss and they may not know about the victimization until long after the
incident (Harrell, 2015). These characteristics make it a unique crime to study. This study
addresses the limited literature on identity theft victimization by applying a partial test of
Black’s (1976) theory of law to the reporting behaviors of identity theft victims.
Review of literature
Identity theft victimization
Much of the research surrounding identity theft has focused on dening identity theft and
the predictors of identity theft victimization. In this sense, identity theft remains a rather
under-studied crime in comparison to property and personal crimes. While there has yet to be
a universally accepted denition of identity theft, the general idea remains that identity theft
involves “the unauthorized use or attempted use of an existing account, such as a credit or
debit card, checking, savings, telephone, online, or insurance account” (Harrell and Langton,
2013, p. 1). With the increased use of electronic, non-cash transactions, opportunity for
identity theft is growing as is the opportunity to study the victims of this crime. While
identity theft legislation has also increased in response to increased victimization, its
effectiveness remains limited (Holtfreter and Holtfreter, 2006).
In addition to literature on the varying denitions of identity theft, much of the literature
on identity theft focuses on demographic predictors of victims. For example, identity theft
victims are often much older than victims of violent and property crimes. Additionally,
identity theft victimization is most common between the ages of 25-64 years (Anderson, 2005;
Harrell and Langton, 2013). This large range encompasses a vast majority of the population.
Unlike many crimes, identity theft victimization is not signicantly different for men and
women (Harrell and Langton, 2013). In 2014, about 53 per cent of victims were female
(Harrell, 2015). Victimization also varies based on income. Households that report an income
of over $75,000 a year reported higher rates of victimization (Anderson, 2005;Harrell and
Langton, 2013;Harrell, 2015). Looking at these victim characteristics may help inform trends
seen within reporting behaviors of identity theft victims. For example, since the age range of
victims is rather large, age may have less of an effect on reporting than posited by Black
(1976). Similarly, with no signicant differences regarding the sex of the victims, there may
not be a signicant difference of reporting behavior based on sex.
Research has also explored variables known to inuence the likelihood of identity theft
and other fraud-related victimization. Knowing these risk factors may help inform
researchers on the motivation behind why some victims choose to report their victimization
while others do not. For example, Schoepher and Piquero (2009) found that risky behaviors
and age were signicant predictors of fraud victimization and also produced marginal effects
on reporting. More specically, younger individuals who were engaging in risky behaviors
were more likely to become victims of fraud and subsequently report their victimization.
These effects, however, were not as signicant as education. Attending college or having a
bachelor’s degree was a signicant predictor in a victim’s likelihood of reporting. Other
known risk factors of victimization include social economic status (Reisig et al., 2009),
nancial impulsivity (Reisig et al., 2009), low self-control (Holtfreter et al., 2008;Reisig and
Holtfreter, 2013;van Wilsem, 2013;Holtfreter et al., 2015) and risky online behaviors. Risky
JFC
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