Report: Fast-growing crime of identity theft has 'faded' as DOJ, FBI priority

Identity theft is on the rise nationwide, yet in a report released Tuesday, federal investigators lament that the Department of Justice's (DOJ) efforts to combat such crimes have to some degree "faded as priorities."

According to the DOJ's Office of the Inspector General (IG), many of the suggestions pitched in 2006 by then-President George W. Bush's task force on identity theft have yet to be implemented fully. As of March, the agency had not even appointed an official to oversee those efforts, according to the report.

Moreover, changes in how the FBI handles related investigations have resulted in an atmosphere in which "the specific crime of identity theft is not an FBI priority," investigators said.

While the IG's report does note that federal law enforcement agencies have experienced some success in prosecuting those who steal others' personal information, the report still urges DOJ to take a more active stance to combat identity theft across the country.

"We are concerned that the FBI’s focus on the problem of identity theft has diminished since 2007. The FBI does not currently consider the specific crime of identity theft to be among its top priorities," the report concludes, noting the agency no longer collects "data on investigations or convictions that involve identity theft."

"However, identity theft is investigated in a significant number of its priority programs, including computer intrusion and mortgage fraud investigations, in addition to other types of high-priority investigations such as its national security investigations," investigators continued.

The IG later stressed a new focus on identity theft would be crucial for the agency, as it is often a gateway or sign of more distressing crimes under way.

"Because identity theft cuts across many different types of criminal activity and is reported to be one of the fastest-growing crimes in the United States, we believe the FBI should refocus attention on this issue," the IG noted.