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FBI: ID theft not a high priority

FBI: ID theft not a high priority

Although fighting cybercrime ranks among the top three priorities for the FBI (right behind terrorism and espionage), the crime of ID theft itself ranks low within that cybercrime mandate, falling into fourth place behind computer intrusion, child pornography, and intellectual rights violations. As a result, Special Agent D. Christopher Sadowski, speaking at this week's SymantecVision conference in San Francisco, says the bureau opened only 49 new ID theft investigations in 2005, up from 40 the previous year. Overall losses as a result of reported ID theft or Internet fraud, however, remain high: roughly $57 billion in 2005, up from $55 billion in 2004, although the number of victims has declined to 8.9 million in 2005, down from 9.4 million in 2004. That suggests that phishers and scam artists are getting better at targeting high-profit victims. Special Agent Sadowski, who sometimes works the call duty desk at the FBI, says that many of the victims of ID theft or Internet fraud he's spoken with can often seek assistance from e-commerce or e-auction sites themselves; only a few warrant federal attention. As for arrests related to ID theft or Internet fraud, Sadowski says the FBI assisted in only 11 arrests in 2005, up from only 4 in 2004. ID thefts tend to originate in foreign countries-- Sadowski singled out Nigeria as an example--and he says that by the time the FBI obtains the necessary memos of understandings or works the various paperwork requirements through the U.S. State Department, local police in those countries have already arrested the perpetrators under investigation.