STEUBENVILLE - When the words "identity theft" are uttered, most people think of financial fraud.
That's also the case with how police officers approach identity theft, according to Mark Priganc, a city native and expert in the field of identity theft protection. Priganc says there is no way to prevent identity theft because all of us have data attached to our names.
Priganc is organizing what he thinks is the first-ever national summit for law enforcement on identity theft.
"I'm calling it the first-ever because I can't find any information that indicates this has been done before," Priganc said from his office in Myrtle Beach, S.C., during a telephone interview.
"I'm looking to bring in representatives from up to 500 police departments from throughout the United States and take them from lying in the crib to running the 100-meter dash in the Olympics," he said. Priganc said most local law enforcement professionals across the nation simply haven't been educated about what identity theft can entail.
"They think it's credit card theft and that bank fraud is identity theft. The media has lumped that into being identity theft," he said. "We're going to take them from that and show them what identity theft really is."
Priganc is involving the FBI's Cybersquad, postal inspectors, Homeland Security and Immigration Customs Enforcement among other professionals to interact with police officers at the event.
Priganc is planning to hold the summit in Myrtle Beach Oct. 28-30, with further details still developing.
Privacyrights.org, a national nonprofit consumer information and advocacy organization that deals with privacy rights issues, said there's a 1-in-465 chance of being a victim of identity theft, far better odds, unfortunately, than hitting the lottery.
The FTC said 3.7 percent of all adults were victims of identity theft as identified in a 2006 survey.
Priganc wrote a book, "Identity Theft: The Personal Guide - Cold Hard Reality," that identifies five areas of identity theft.
"And now it's seven. It's expanding," he said.
He said it's tough to know the scope of identity theft entirely, because many law enforcement agencies don't flag certain crimes as identity theft or know what to report to the FBI or the FTC. He plans on making sure officers from around the nation exchange business cards to allow the identity theft investigators on the local level to stay in touch with one another.
"The amateurs are the Dumpster divers, the mail thieves, and they get caught," he said. "The professionals are interjurisdictional. They steal in Steubenville and go somewhere else to sell their information. Now it crosses into being interstate fraud. Local police don't always communicate. I want to get them to exchange information with each other."
Priganc said national "red flag" laws that tighten requirements for businesses to be sure true identification is being used by customers in major transactions kick in next month, but he said that only raises the bar for ID thieves, who will adapt.
"It means there will be higher-end technology and skills used to disseminate information. Street-level criminals will fall to the wayside, but it's becoming more and more organized," Priganc said. "It's no longer just individuals. It's now teams of hackers and social networkers and social engineers working on getting information."
Priganc anticipates there will be fewer ID thieves at work, but the ones left will be harder to track and catch.
(Giannamore can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.)