Specically, 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 inuence 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 dening 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 denition 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 denitions 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 signicantly 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 signicant differences regarding the sex of the victims, there may
not be a signicant difference of reporting behavior based on sex.
Research has also explored variables known to inuence 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 signicant predictors of fraud victimization and also produced marginal effects
on reporting. More specically, 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 signicant as education. Attending college or having a
bachelor’s degree was a signicant 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