The Growing Problem of Identity Theft
Identity theft is becoming one of the fastest-growing crimes in the United States. The Bureau of Justice Statistics recently reported that approximately 16.6 million persons were victims of one or more incidents of identity theft in 2012. The number of identity theft victims and their total losses can be difficult to pinpoint because law enforcement agencies classify identity theft differently, and it can involve credit card fraud, Internet fraud, or mail theft, among other crimes. According to the Identity Theft Resource Center and other resources, an identity thief suspect can obtain information on their victims through methods such as:
- Searching through the dumpster, looking for straight cut or nonshredded papers.
- Stealing mail or wallets.
- Tricking victims into giving their personal information over the telephone or by e-mail.
- Buying the information either on the Internet or from someone who may have stolen it.
- Stealing the information from a loan or credit application form the victim has filled out from files at a hospital, bank, school, or business.
- Accessing the victim’s computer, especially one that lacks firewalls.
- Obtaining it from a friend or a relative or someone who works for the victim who has access to the victim’s information.
- Using skimming devices designed to obtain information from the magnetic strip on credit cards.
- Completing a change of address form with the United States Postal Service to divert mail to another location.
In addition, the increased use of the Internet, including the large amount of credit card purchases now conducted via the Internet, makes it easier for identity theft to occur because criminals can acquire key pieces of personal information, such as name, address, date of birth, social security number, and credit information, in order to impersonate or defraud the victim.
Oftentimes, these investigations can be difficult to investigate because of jurisdictional boundaries. For example, a victim may live in one state, but the charge to a victim’s account may occur in a different state or even another country. It is important for law enforcement agencies to train officers and investigators in reporting, investigating, and preparing cases for courts to handle identity theft investigations.
RISS offers law enforcement agencies and officers a full range of support services that can assist with these investigations. RISS offers important information sharing and intelligence resources via the RISS Secure Cloud (RISSNET) as well as numerous and diverse investigative support services and officer safety resources. Partner and other criminal justice resources are also accessible via RISSNET. Officers investigating identity theft can use RISS services and resources to:
- Simultaneously query dozens of databases to obtain information on suspects, victims, and witnesses; driver’s license photos; past residences and employers; and criminal histories.
- Request case organizational aids and courtroom presentations, such as timelines, link analysis, financial analysis, and photographic enlargements.
- Request audio and video enhancements and analysis of seized electronic devices, such as computers, cell phones, and cameras, for evidence and to provide documentation.
- Borrow sophisticated equipment, such as covert recording devices.
- Obtain training on new and emerging topics. A lieutenant of the Vice and Narcotics Unit with the Opelika, Alabama, Police Department stated that the training sponsored by ROCIC and received by his officers played a major role in the successful investigation of identity theft suspects as indicated in the shared success below.
Fraud training received by two officers with the Opelika, Alabama, Police Department proved beneficial a couple of weeks later when the officers were contacted to investigate two suspicious subjects at a local home improvement discount store. Recognizing their method of operation, the detectives conducted surveillance at the store and arrested the fraud suspects outside in the parking lot. Documents containing more than 200 stolen identities were discovered in their vehicles. The suspects were arrested for trafficking in stolen identities and identity theft. A third subject was arrested for possession of crack cocaine. The suspects were transferred to the U.S. Marshals Service, and the case has been adopted by the U.S. Secret Service, which is investigating bank accounts and attempting to identify victims. The joint investigation led the Secret Service to a Georgia motel room, where additional information on stolen identities was recovered.
- Access publications and bulletins, such as Faking It: Counterfeit IDs Risk National Security.
- Obtain confidential funds to provide for investigative expenses, such as travel to conduct interviews with suspects or victims.
- Use the RISSLeads Investigative Website to establish a secure discussion board on various topics, including identity theft.
These are services and resources that some agencies and officers may not have access to and that can have a direct impact on the successful resolution of identity theft investigations, including prosecution and conviction of criminals. To read more about how agencies and officers have utilized RISS services and resources to resolve identity theft investigations, visit www.riss.net/Impact.
Safeguarding Our Nation’s Law Enforcement Officers
Recognizing the dangerous nature of some everyday law enforcement activities, officers must have the necessary information, resources, and tools to proactively identify, deter, and respond to criminal activities while maintaining their own safety and that of their fellow officers, as well as protecting our communities and citizens. There are many officer safety resources that exist, but some of these actually focus on methods of hurting officers or provide inappropriate, contradictory, outdated, or inaccurate information.
The RISS Officer Safety Website provides secure access to vetted, trusted information and materials on topics including armed and dangerous individuals and situations, weapon concealments (such as those for handguns, knives, stun devices, and handmade weapons), vehicle concealments, narcotics concealments (such as the use of jean seams, PVC pipes, candy, and copper threads), and other officer safety-related concealments. The site includes awareness information regarding topics such as social media, active shooters, gangs, bombs, domestic terrorism, and sovereign citizens.
Training and awareness videos housed at the site show officer survival tips, traffic stops, defensive tactics, sovereign citizen encounters, and high-risk pursuits. Other features include a training calendar, daily roll call, announcements, and the Officer Down Memorial. Registered users of the VALOR™ Web Portal who are sworn law enforcement officers are also able to seamlessly access the RISS Officer Safety Website.
Officer contributions and feedback are essential for ensuring a dynamic, ever-changing, and comprehensive website. Officers may contribute officer safety-related information to the website and provide feedback with comments and suggestions on how RISS can continue to enhance it. Information is constantly updated, and new information is added to the site on a regular basis. Officers are encouraged to visit the website frequently to obtain new information.
Each year, more than 60,000 law enforcement officers are violently assaulted. In addition, more than 20,500 law enforcement officers have died in the service of our nation. The loss of an officer results in long-term effects for the family and the law enforcement community. With more than 900,000 sworn officers throughout the country, safeguarding our nation’s law enforcement officers while maintaining the integrity of investigations is a top priority.
The RISS Officer Safety Website is available to all sworn law enforcement officers. RISS is proud to provide this officer safety tool and remains committed to supporting and safeguarding our nation’s law enforcement. For more information on RISS, including the Officer Safety Website, contact your in-region RISS Center or visit www.riss.net.
MAGLOCLEN Provides Critical Support During Papal Visit
Pope Francis’s visit to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on September 26–27 was a historic opportunity for the Delaware Valley region and the tens of thousands of participants at the 2015 World Meeting of Families. Ensuring the safety and welfare of all during this high-profile event was a top priority for law enforcement and public safety agencies. The MAGLOCLEN RISS Center was proud to provide critical support to this event in a variety of ways.
Months before the event, in preparation for the Papal visit, MAGLOCLEN’s senior supervisory analyst worked with the Philadelphia office of the United States Secret Service (USSS) and Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, law enforcement personnel and public safety officials to discuss their needs and identify MAGLOCLEN resources to be utilized for this event. To aid in the control of the various events and movements within the city of Philadelphia and Montgomery County, high-resolution aerial imagery charts of key locations were prepared. These charts were used by tactical officers in preplanning and during the operational events. The MAGLOCLEN analytical staff created maps of key locations for use by command staff to aid in the planning and coordination of manpower placement and resource allocation. Static charts were developed to help display asset availability and deployment, as well as any incident command structure for planning agencies. More than 90 charts were prepared for the USSS, and 39 charts were prepared for the Montgomery County Department of Public Safety’s Homeland Security and Intelligence Division. These products were printed in a large format and laminated. To increase the ease of sharing, these charts were also made available electronically.
MAGLOCLEN’s Intelligence Research Services Unit extended its operating hours to assist member agencies with Papal event-related activity. Law enforcement partners were able to take advantage of the services of MAGLOCLEN and RISS, including access to more than 35 law enforcement databases. Other commonly used intelligence services involved obtaining driver’s license and booking photos, locating subjects’ past and present addresses, locating relatives, employment histories, business and property information, data associated with telephone numbers, and obtaining criminal histories.
Law enforcement was on high-alert during the Papal visit, and officer safety was a top priority. Event deconfliction was paramount in supporting and protecting law enforcement officers and safeguarding citizens. The Delaware Valley Intelligence Center (DVIC) and the Pennsylvania State Police Department Watch Center personnel utilized the RISS Officer Safety Event Deconfliction System (RISSafe) during the event, which enabled officers to identify operational conflicts and collaborate with law enforcement agencies and officers.
With the extraordinary number of people that attended the events during the Papal visit, coupled with known major road closures and public transportation reroutes to accommodate the Papal motorcade, travelling anywhere in or around the city was next to impossible. Knowing this would be an operational difficulty for day-shift DVIC Watch Center staff, the DVIC command staff contacted MAGLOCLEN to request assistance with providing working accommodations for a member of the DVIC Watch Center at its headquarters in Newtown (Bucks County), Pennsylvania. A DVIC Watch Center staff member was stationed at MAGLOCLEN beginning Friday, September 25, through Sunday, September 27.
MAGLOCLEN investigative equipment was loaned to several law enforcement agencies to support the Papal visit. Pole cameras were used by Montgomery County and Camden County, New Jersey, law enforcement agencies to support tactical operations and monitor activities. Surveillance equipment was loaned to the New Jersey State Police to aid in security operations.
MAGLOCLEN’s support for the Papal visit helped ensure the safety of all involved and maximized the use of RISS’s critical resources and services. For more information on RISS, please visit www.riss.net or contact your in-region RISS Center.
RISS Money Counter Project—Sharing Information to Connect Cases
The RISS Money Counter Project
(MCP) began as a collaborative project between the WSIN RISS Center and the Hawaii High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) in February 2013. The RISS MCP database and web application, developed and hosted by WSIN, can be accessed through the RISS Secure Cloud (RISSNET) Portal. The purpose of the application and database is to store currency serial numbers for comparison to currency submitted by officers in previous cases. Authorized users can query the MCP database to determine whether a note has been previously stored.
The MCP offers unique and valuable features and functions to aid users, including the following:
- Serial Number Search — Enables the user to perform multinumber serial number inquiries.
- Case Query — Provides the user with the ability to compare serial numbers in cases against the entire RISS MCP database.
- Scan Currency — Offers an interactive process that supports an authorized user during currency scanning and uploading.
- Import Data — Enables the authorized user to upload a file that contains serial numbers and images.
- Case Maintenance — Permits the ability to verify, update contacts, delete cases, delete batches, and view batch or case details.
- MCP Status — Permits the user to track the progress of background processing of case uploads and case deletions.
- Reports — Contains several preformatted reports ranging from activity reports to case reports.
- Download Software — Redirects the user to the MCP software download page.
RISS MCP was built to house currency-based case information for participating law enforcement officers and agencies. Case information is established by utilizing the “scan currency” function within the RISS MCP application. Currency information, such as serial number, denomination, currency type, and full front and back images of the note, are quickly captured and stored by money counter scanning devices, then uploaded into the RISS MCP database by the case officer.
Only the case officer and a secondary contact officer are permitted to access an entire case file. Only these authorized users can add, remove, and edit information in the case file itself. In addition, these users will have the ability to compare entire cases against the RISS MCP database, using the “case query” process.
An example of an agency’s use of the RISS MCP is provided in the shared success story below:
The Maui, Hawaii, Police Department Narcotics/Vice Unit seized $14,000 in U.S. currency and asked for WSIN assistance to scan the bills using the Money Counter Project. The system produced a hit with a drug buy in Honolulu, Hawaii, that was conducted by Homeland Security Investigations.
The MCP is a powerful tool to combat case-related crimes, such as drug trafficking, money laundering, counterfeiting, etc., and enables officers to “follow the money,” enhances investigative efforts, and assists with connecting cases.
Accessing the MCP is easy. Once a user has logged on to the RISSNET Portal at www.riss.net, he or she will have access to the RISS Money Counter Project. At the RISSNET Portal Home page, locate the resource heading at the bottom of the page titled “Investigative” and select the RISS Money Counter Project.
If you do not have access to the RISSNET Portal or for more information on how to receive access to this investigative resource, contact the WSIN Watch Center at (800) 952-5258.
Authorities Initiate Active Shooter Protocol and Use MAGLOCLEN-Developed Action Response Plans
The Cresskill, New Jersey, Police Department requested assistance from the MAGLOCLEN analytical staff in preparing School Action Response Plans for four school buildings within its jurisdiction. Utilizing high-resolution aerial imagery; ground-level, exterior perimeter photos; and detailed floor plans of each building, the MAGLOCLEN analytical staff created high-quality, detailed plans for preplanning, training, and emergency operations. These plans were provided to officials in both electronic and large-format, hard-copy versions. A year later, one of the schools in Cresskill received an anonymous phone threat related to weapons and the killing of students. Not knowing the true nature of the threat at the time, the authorities initiated their active shooter protocol, which included the use of the Action Response Plans. After determining that they were the victims of a “swatting” call, the Cresskill police officers and the school district officials were able to evaluate and critique their response. The Cresskill police officers remarked how integral the Action Response Plans were to facilitate a professional and efficient response. All of the students and faculty were evacuated quickly and without incident.
Specialized Investigative Equipment Instrumental in Auto Theft Investigation
The Rice County, Minnesota, Sheriff’s Office, along with at least ten other local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies, requested assistance from the MOCIC staff in a complex auto theft investigation that lasted more than 14 months. Investigators believed that the suspects had stolen multiple vehicles and removed parts, using these parts and other stolen vehicle parts in different vehicles or otherwise converting the stolen items to cash. The investigation revealed that vehicle identification numbers (VIN) in various vehicles and vehicle parts had either been swapped or were missing entirely. At the suggestion of the MOCIC field staff, investigators borrowed MOCIC specialized investigative equipment, which was instrumental to the investigation. In addition, the MOCIC analytical staff provided link charts that assisted in identifying and connecting suspects. As a result of this investigation, two people were arrested on multiple charges that ultimately included theft, fraud, racketeering, and tax violations. Investigators seized multiple vehicles, engines, trailers, and many other items, valued at hundreds of thousands of dollars. Investigators also seized methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia and recovered six stolen vehicles from the Twin Cities metropolitan area and one from Indiana. Both suspects pled guilty prior to trial.
RISSProp: A Tremendous Asset and Investigative Resource to the Boston Police Department
An elderly female resident of Boston, Massachusetts, had been hospitalized because of an illness. While she was recovering from her illness, a houseguest was permitted to remain at her home. Upon being discharged from the hospital, she discovered that her houseguest—a 39-year-old male—had stolen her television, a computer, and assorted jewelry. A Boston Police Department detective used RISSProp to determine that the victim’s computer and jewelry, valued at approximately $4,800, had been sold to a Boston pawnshop. Further investigation resulted in the arrest of the perpetrator and the recovery of the victim’s property. A detective lieutenant stated, “Boston is now receiving over 20,000 reported pawnshop, secondhand dealer, and jewelry store transactions each month, because of our partnership with NESPIN. RISSProp is a tremendous asset and investigative resource.”
Intelligence Research Staff Assist With Food Stamp Fraud Case
The Arizona Department of Economic Security, Office of Special Investigations, contacted the RMIN intelligence research staff for assistance with a food stamp fraud case. The RMIN staff was given seven suspect businesses and suspect business owners to research for possible criminal activities. In addition, financial checks were run, resulting in findings of suspicious activity reports for fraud. During the research, the RMIN staff also entered the information into the RISS Criminal Intelligence Database (RISSIntel) and found that the Casa Grande, Arizona, Police Department had been working several of the same businesses and subjects for narcotics and fraud. The RMIN staff notified both agencies, putting them in contact with one another, which led to a joint operation with the two agencies. RISSafe was then used to deconflict undercover buys conducted by the Casa Grande Narcotics detectives over the next several months. Multiple undercover buys of
K2 Spice were made from a local convenience store, which led to buys from the store’s supplier and, eventually, to the supplier’s arrest. Items seized as a result of this joint operation included 30 pounds of K2 Spice, valued at more than $100,000; $211,000 in U.S. currency; six vehicles, valued at $129,000; and three properties, valued at $771,000.
ROCIC Technical Equipment Leads to the Arrest of a Drug Trafficker
The chief deputy with the Unicoi County, Tennessee, Sheriff’s Office credits the use of loaned ROCIC technical equipment, employed during a covert drug transaction, with capturing critical intelligence that led to the arrest of a drug trafficker. A traffic stop pursuant to information obtained by investigators resulted in the recovery of more than ½ pound of marijuana from the suspect. The deputy, while making the traffic stop, detected marijuana and questioned the driver, who admitted that drugs were hidden under the rear passenger seat. A roadside consensual search of the vehicle located 233 grams of marijuana. The search also netted two 4-gram packages and a pack of hand-rolled marijuana cigarettes. During the roadside interview, the driver and a female passenger admitted to traveling to North Carolina to purchase the marijuana and transport it back home. The driver, who was previously convicted for felonious assault with a deadly weapon in North Carolina, also consented to a search of his residence, after disclosing that he had more drugs, paraphernalia, and firearms at that location. Seized in that search were additional marijuana,
assorted drug paraphernalia, a shotgun, a rifle, and a revolver. The subject was charged with possession of a Schedule VI controlled substance for sale, possession of drug paraphernalia, and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.
RISSafe Protects Officers During Buy/Walk Undercover Operation
A detective with the Bremerton, Washington, Special Operations Group who had recently attended RISSafe training contacted the Northwest High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) to post the group’s operation into RISSafe. While en route to conduct the operation, they were advised by the Northwest HIDTA that they were in conflict with the Federal Way, Washington, Police Department operation in which someone was going to do a buy/walk in the same parking lot. The Federal Way operation was in a specific store near the parking lot. The detectives were able to talk to each other before their scheduled operations, which resulted in the Bremerton group moving its operation a few blocks away from Federal Way’s event.