Thursday, June 05, 2008

Immigrants (Hispanics) and identity theft

Randall Parker reports on an article by Steven Malanga on identity theft and illegal immigration. Malanga points out that the "epidemic" rise in ID theft has paralleled the rise in the number of immigrants (specifically illegal immigrants) in the US. Citizens who share their state with lots of immigrants are at the greatest risk of having their identities stolen:
The top five states in terms of reported identity theft in 2007 all have large immigrant populations—the border states of Arizona, California, and Texas, as well as Florida and Nevada. ... “To many law enforcement leaders in Arizona, this suggests that Arizona’s identity-theft epidemic is directly linked to the problem of illegal immigration,” says a recent report by Identity Theft 911, an Arizona company that helps businesses and individuals protect themselves.
His observation can be stated more forcefully in another way. The correlation between a state's ID theft victimization rate and its foreign-born population is a vigorous .75. That means more than half (56%) of the magnitude of the ID theft problem in a state is found by simply looking at the relative size of its non-native population. For each 1% increase in the proportion of a state population that is foreign-born, the number of ID theft victims per 100,000 people increases by three. Put in another way, for every 1% increase in the proportion of the total US population that is foreign-born, we can expect another 9,000 citizens to have their identities stolen each year.

The other conventional social indicators of crime do not share anywhere near as strong a relationship: Economic inequality has no statistically significant relationship with ID crime, nor does the percentage of the population that is black, the average educational attainment of adults in a state, or a state's poverty rate; a state's violent crime rate correlates at .54 with ID theft victimization but that is largely a result of how strongly, at .78, the percentage of the population that is Hispanic correlates with it.

The whiter the state, the less ID theft is a problem, as the percentage of a state's population that is white inversely correlates with victimization at .64. The data are here.

The targets tend to be affluent, with households of annual incomes over $75,000 the most likely to be hit by ID thieves. As income increases, so does the likelihood of being victimized. The racial variance among victims isn't large, but whites (5.6%) are more likely to suffer than blacks (4.8%) or Hispanics (4.4%) are.

In addition to the headache of trying to recover one's identity, there is a financial cost as well. Illegal immigrants are more likely to steal information that ends up being the most costly:
People who pilfer legitimate identities in these states are much more likely than in other parts of the country to use them to gain employment unlawfully—the most common reason that illegal aliens steal personal information. In Arizona, for instance, 36 percent of all identity theft is for employment purposes, compared with only 5 percent in Maine, a state with far fewer illegal aliens.
The average victim was setback $1,620 in '05 according to the Bureau of Justice, but the kind of theft that illegal immigrants are more likely than natives to engage in--the theft of personal information like Social Security numbers--cost each victim an average of $4,850. The filching of credit cards, in contrast, brought an average monetary cost of $980.

It's not surprising that those who flout residency laws to live in the US quasi-anonymously are going to have relatively few qualms about stealing the identities of American citizens. By failing to control who enters the country, we are assenting to ignorance of who is here. By failing to punish and remove illegal immigrants who are in the US, we are bringing more identity theft on ourselves.

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