Fact Sheet 302
ENHANCING VICTIM AND PRIVATE INDUSTRY INVESTIGATOR RELATIONS
Tools for Private Industry Fraud Investigators Working with Identity Theft Cases
Information in this Fact Sheet includes:
• An Opportunity to Shine: A Marketing Tool
• Some Facts about Identity Theft Victims
• Ideas for Victim Brochures
• Enhancing Ongoing Communications
Victims of Identity theft often individuals work with multiple investigators simultaneously. From financial institutions, collection agencies, governmental agencies and law enforcement; the responsibility to track each of the contacts falls to the victim. The fact that each entity has different procedures which require unique forms and affidavits often makes it tedious for the victim. Keeping this fact in mind when communicating with victims will help remind you as to why they may be upset, frustrated, and sometimes appear to be disorganized (when in reality they aren't).
The Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) has partnerships with financial institutions and governmental agencies. We acknowledge that some organizations have both fraud (identity theft) investigators as well as services to assist the victim in remediating their case. For those organizations that don't have the second part of this process in house, we encourage you to send your victims to us for that follow through. We have spent over 10 years working with victims and building reasonable expectations of the role in which the fraud investigators plays in this complex process. We realize that the majority of investigators care about the well-being of the individual, however the primary focus of their investigation only relates to ONE facet of the victim's situation. The ITRC can assist the victim in organizing and pulling together each of these facets in a cohesive manner, so that the next time you must reach out to that victim for information, they will have the organizational tools to know who you are, what you need, and why you are asking for it. Using this approach often minimizing the economic loss for both parties and helps to uncover the imposter and put them out of work!
This fact sheet contains some introductory techniques that will help you, the investigator, to more effectively communicate with victims. By turning victims into assets, instead of liabilities, you actually save time and energy in dealing with the case. This is also an opportunity to increase customer loyalty, minimize loss, and attract new customers to your company.
Should your company or agency desire a more complete program, please contact our offices for more information.
Every encounter with a victim is an opportunity lost or gained:
You have an opportunity to increase customer loyalty and to attract new customers to your company when you handle victims in the appropriate manner. The way in which you treat the victim reflects on your company and how it values people. Victims often repeat their stories of the crime, including the names of the companies they had to deal with. The next time you are communicating with what you perceive as a difficult victim, think about what you would like them to say to their friends, their business contacts, their families, and others who may be similarly situated.
The investigator at XYZ Company listened to me. He carefully explained what procedures they were going to have to take and followed through by sending me the paperwork I needed to prove my case. He also connected me with the right person at another company that was involved as well.
The investigator at XYZ Company was rude. He refused to believe me even though I had a police report and evidence of the crime. Then he threatened to turn this over to collection when I wouldn't pay. They lost the paperwork I sent them twice and forgot to notify the credit reporting agencies when 6 months later they finally cleared me. I would never do business with that company in the future.
SOME FACTS ABOUT IDENTITY THEFT VICTIMS
• Victims of identity theft, as with any crime, are scared, confused, and have had their trust violated.
• Many victims report that the undermining of their financial health and good name has either permanently impacted their lives or has continued for years. It's difficult for them to foresee a conclusion to their case when they continue to receive information regarding additional uses of their identifying information after the initial issue appears to have been resolved.
• Most of these people have never been a prior victim of crime, and thus have a limited understanding of the criminal justice system and the investigative process. They can become overly excited, demanding and anxious. They want everything done yesterday.
• Victims can uncover evidence that will be helpful in the case. It may not always be what you need, but it can help. Allowing the victim to become a resource in the investigation could produce positive results.
• Victims should be encouraged to become their own advocates. They need to continue to be a part of the process and feel like they are doing something to regain control, and "get this person to stop." The ITRC helps to communicate self-advocacy to the victim while building reasonable expectations regarding the outcome of their case.
ITRC recommends that your organization develop and send out an Identity Theft Victim Guide, a tri-fold or letter. This document, or set of documents, should outline what initial steps a victim should take. It should include any forms that your company requires from victims, such as a fraud affidavit. A worksheet could help them organize their thoughts and substantially reduce time spent on the call and increase your efficiency in gathering relevant information. This document should be made available to the victim either via mail, fax, or on online, the same day the issue is reported. The ITRC is available on a consultancy basis for assistance with developing a custom identity theft guide for your company.
Clear communications with victims increase positive feelings about your company. Here are some suggestions of items you might want to include in the victim guide:
1. The cover letter should start on a personal note. Set the tone that your company or agency is here to help and wants to develop a working relationship. Your empathy with the situation that the victim is facing sets the initial tone and often the tone of the ongoing communication with that victim.
2. Outline your company's procedures for clearing disputed accounts. Keep in mind that even though you have explained this procedure NUMEROUS times, this is the likely the FIRST time this individual has heard what you have to say.
3. Discuss your intake form (affidavit). Explain why certain information is needed.
4. Describe what types of information will determine if the victim is liable or not. Be up front about the time frame in which they can expect resolution. It's better provide this information up front and deal with initial disappointment or anger. State, in explicit terms, what, if any, actions they must avoid so as not to damage their case. If appropriate, explain procedures if the account has been turned over to collections.
5. Explain the appeal process if your company finds it isn't an identity theft case.
6. Describe your company policy regarding filing charges for criminal prosecution against the perpetrator.
7. Refer victim to additional resources for assistance, including the ITRC.
SOME FINAL THOUGHTS:
There is no easy answer to identity theft. The Public and Private sector must work together to assist those who are victimized as well as build consumer awareness to help minimize consumer risk. Advocacy organizations such as the ITRC provide an integral component of this equation. If you would like to be a part of this dialogue please contact the ITRC directly as we have many resources for your organization.
Copyright 2013, Identity Theft Resource Center®, all rights reserved.
This fact sheet should not be used in lieu of legal advice. Any requests to reproduce this material, other than by individual victims for their own use, should be directed to ITRC.