Study Methodology and Limitations

The study departed from the usual format of a literature review because of the paucity of formal research on identity theft. The researchers consulted other fields to bring in studies that seemed relevant. Identity theft fits into the literature of opportunity theory in criminology that examines how offenders take advantage of new (and old) ways of doing business and conducting the affairs of everyday life (Felson 1998 [1]; Felson and Clarke 1998 [2]). This literature review drew heavily on that approach and used it as an organizing principle for the paper.

The paper also differs from a typical literature review because it is in some places prescriptive, sometimes without adequate formal research to support such prescriptions. This applies particularly in regard to local police response. Much of the evidence in such matters lies in prescriptions and sometimes exhortations delivered by various associations and interest groups, sometimes emerging from various congressional hearings or from Federal or State legislation.

Sources consulted were wide-ranging and varied in type and quality. The researchers frequently consulted the Internet, acknowledging the dangers of treating Web-based information as "factual." The topic of identity theft has a major presence on the Internet (see appendix 5), which may indicate public interest. The best sources are described in appendix 1.

About the Researchers

Graeme R. Newman is Distinguished Teaching Professor at the School of Criminal Justice, State University of New York at Albany, where he has taught for 25 years. He has published in the fields of comparative criminal justice, private security, situational crime prevention, and e-commerce crime. In 1990, he helped establish the United Nations Crime and Justice Information Network, the first criminal justice presence on the Internet. Among the books he has co-authored are: Superhighway Robbery: Crime Prevention and E-commerce Crime and Outsmarting the Terrorists (with Ronald V. Clarke) and Rational Choice and Situational Crime Prevention (with Ronald V. Clarke and Shlomo Shoham). Professor Newman received his B.A. from the University of Melbourne in Australia and his doctorate from the University of Pennsylvania.

Megan M. McNally has taught as an adjunct professor in several colleges since 1998 and worked as a research assistant for the Center for Problem-Oriented Policing as a senior editor for Criminal Justice Abstracts. She received her B.S. in Philosophy and Psychology from Fordham University in 1995, and her M.S. in Criminal Justice from New Jersey City University in 1997. In 2005, Ms. McNally presented on identity theft at the NIJ Conference in Washington, D.C.


[1] Felson, M. Crime and Everyday Life (2d ed.), Thousand Oaks, CA: Pine Forge Press, 1998.

[2] Felson, M. and R.V. Clarke, Opportunity Makes the Thief, Police Research Series, Paper 98, London: Home Office, 1998.

Date Created: June 7, 2010