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Study finds No. 1 source of identity theft is relative or friend

Saint Xavier University professor releases results of study

Chicago (May 22, 2007) – In more than 60 percent of identity theft cases, a person’s identity is stolen by a friend, relative or acquaintance, an unprecedented study by a Saint Xavier University professor has found.

Performing a kind of financial CSI, University researchers analyzed a sampling of nearly 30,000 “cold cases” of identity theft that occurred between 2000 and 2006 and were provided by the Chicago Police Department.

The Institute for Fraud Prevention funded the study, which was directed by William Kresse, assistant professor in Saint Xavier University’s Graham School of Management and director of its graduate program in financial fraud examination and management. Kathleen Watland, assistant professor in the Graham School of Management, was also a researcher on the study.

 “This has been a fascinating view into the mind of the identity thief,” Kresse said. “While some results were expected, many were quite surprising.”

Among the study’s findings:

• One in six identity theft cases were the result of a purse snatching, pick-pocketing, burglary or robbery. In less than 5 percent of the cases, the identity was stolen through the mail. 

• Identity theft is an equal opportunity crime – it occurs fairly evenly across income levels.

• The most popular use (more than 25 percent) of a victim’s stolen identity was to acquire a credit card or to perpetrate some other credit card fraud. Kresse noted that acquiring a cell phone is an easy way for identity thieves and con artists to establish credibility to perpetrate other frauds. 

• Despite living in the age of high tech, computers and the Internet were used in less than 5 percent of the cases studied to steal a victim’s identity.

“In spite of technological advances, we still find old-school methods to be preferred for identity theft,” said John Lucki, a sergeant in the Chicago Police Department’s financial crimes investigations section. Lucki assisted in researching the study and teaches in Saint Xavier’s financial fraud examination and management program, which he helped design. “Information management, protection and security are the keys to protecting your financial identity, whether as an individual consumer or a business entity.” 

• Victims of identity theft are usually younger adults, especially those between the ages of 20 and 44. 

• Women and African Americans are overrepresented as victims of identity theft. Hispanics, senior citizens, children and teenagers are underrepresented as victims of identity theft. 

Saint Xavier University’s financial fraud examination and management program is the country’s only classroom-based MBA program in financial fraud examination and identity theft. The program combines elements of law enforcement, law, accounting and general business education.

After a nationwide search, the U.S. Air Force Office of Special Investigations chose Saint Xavier’s program to train its special agents to detect procurement fraud. The Chicago Police Department, the second largest police force in the country, has also chosen Saint Xavier’s program to train its officers in financial fraud and identity theft.  

Kresse is chair of the higher education committee of the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE), and international organization. He is also an attorney, a certified public accountant, certified fraud examiner and certified forensic accountant, and a consultant in the areas of tax, probate, real estate, commercial litigation, criminal appeals, estate planning, and small business. He is an arbitrator with the Circuit Court of the Cook County Arbitration Program, and an election attorney for the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners.


Founded by the Sisters of Mercy in 1846, Saint Xavier University was the first Mercy college in the United States and is Chicago’s oldest Catholic university. Serving approximately 5,700 students at its campuses in Chicago, Orland Park and its Loop location, the University offers 35 undergraduate majors; more than 40 graduate program options in arts and sciences, business, education and nursing; and a variety of program options in continuing and professional studies. Recognizing Saint Xavier’s excellence in education, U.S. News and World Report has ranked SXU consistently among the Best Colleges in the Midwest.

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