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Bounded rationality of identity thieves: Using offender-based research to inform policy

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Research Summary

Data for this study were collected in semistructured interviews with 59 individuals serving time in federal prisons for identity theft. We explore how offenders' experiences and life circumstances affected their subjective assessments of risks and rewards and thus facilitated the decision to engage in identity theft. Our findings suggest that offenders perceive identity theft as an easy, rewarding, and relatively risk-free way to fund their chosen lifestyles.

Policy Implications

The findings suggest that several situational crime-prevention measures may be effective at curbing identity theft. Crime-prevention programs that are geared toward removing excuses and advertising consequences may be effective in deterring potential offenders. We also recommend that rehabilitation programs for convicted identity thieves be cognitive-based interventions aimed at changing the way offenders think about their crimes.

Keywords: identity theft; identity thieves; offender decision making

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Associate professor in the Department of Justice Sciences at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. 2: Associate professor in the criminology program at the University of Texas at Dallas.

Publication date: 2009-05-01

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