$500K Grant Goes to Assist Maryland ID Theft, Crime Victims

By Alex Dominquez | February 25, 2008

A crime victim’s assistance group will help those harmed by identity theft and fraud under a $500,000 grant announced Thursday.

The Maryland Crime Victims Resource Center plans to use the money to provide direct assistance to victims, work with law enforcement agencies to help victims and investigate their cases, and encourage pro bono work by attorneys, among other things, said Russell Butler, the group’s executive director.

“It’s happening to people very frequently. Hopefully, we can help most victims help themselves by giving them self-help information, but when they can’t help themselves and they need somebody to help them, we obviously want to be there as a resource for them,” Butler said.

The grant was announced by U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein, who said the victim’s group will work with the Maryland Identity Theft Working Group _ which coordinates and promotes the investigation and prosecution of identity theft cases in the state _ as well as other groups.

Butler said his center, first formed in 1982 by the parents of Stephanie Roper following her murder, now provides criminal justice information and education; support services; counseling and legal information; referrals and representation to more than 600 victims annually through offices in Baltimore and Prince George’s County.

The grant, from the Department of Justice’s Office of Justice Programs, will allow the center to expand its services to federal identity theft and fraud cases nationwide, Butler said.

Experts and consumer groups say the extent of the problem is difficult to gauge. However, in November, the Federal Trade Commission said a phone survey found an estimated 8.3 million Americans over the age of 18 were victims of identity theft in 2005, although it noted the sample size in its survey was small.

Javelin Strategy & Research estimates identity theft cost U.S. businesses $55.7 billion in 2006, and the FTC estimates the cost to consumers that year was $1.2 billion.

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On the Net:

MCVRC _ http://www.mdcrimevictims.org/

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