Victim Assistance and Cyber Crime in America-NOVA

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Len Sipes: From the nation’s capital, this is DC Public Safety. I’m your host Leonard Sipes. Ladies and gentlemen, back at our microphones, Will Marling. He is the Executive Director for the National Director for Victim Assistance,, We’re going to be talking about a variety of topics in terms of victim assistance in America. Will, welcome back to DC Public Safety.

Will Marling: Len, thanks so much. You know this is one of my favorite things to do. I just really enjoy our time.

Len Sipes: Well, the remarks that I get from Linked In and the other social media sites plus our own website seems to indicate that you’re very popular. Every time I bring you on we get nice comments, so we want to start off with a constitutional amendment for victims. One of the things that always boggles the minds of everybody is that the overwhelming majority of the criminal justice system is there to protect the rights of defendants, but very few rights are there to protect the rights of the victim and we have a variety of states, somewhere about 30 that do have state constitutional rights to protect victim rights, but what we’re talking about a federal law to establish a strong victims’ presence in the courtroom and then law enforcement and the rest of the criminal justice system protecting victims’ rights when a federal law is violated. Correct?

Will Marling: Well, that’s right. I mean we’re talking about the highest law of the land, which is the United States constitution, our founding document. So this represents an amendment to that founding document to affirm rights for victims of crime specifically.

Len Sipes: And how is that coming?

Will Marling: Well, it’s moving. We’re moving forward, you know, a lot of folks that listen to your program; things like this aren’t clearly visible because there’s a lot of activity. There can be between 10 and 12,000 bills introduced into Congress during the course of a two-year session and so you know, there’s a lot of noise, as I might say it, in the bills but we are continually educating house representatives specifically. It’s House Joint Resolution 40, and the main thing that we’re doing apart from just educating them is asking them for their co-sponsorship. They can literally put their name on an official support list and said yes, I will co-sponsor House Joint Resolution 40 and so it’s a continual effort to build momentum, to educate, and to move it forward.

Len Sipes: How could you not support victims’ rights? I mean, I would think the entire Congress would get behind this.

Will Marling: Well, we agree. The reality is that when people are asked on the street, should victims have rights? It’s an overwhelming response in the affirmative. And most people, even those who might resist this would affirm victims’ rights. There are some folks who are purists and we shouldn’t amend the constitution and you know, I agree, maybe not very frequently, but the reason it’s to be amended, is because it needs to grow and change. There are some that are concerned that it would impact the rights of the accused or defendants, and we simply respond that is not true either. We affirm that those rights need to be there and the Bill of Rights, the amendment is designed to protect those accused of a crime need to be vigorously upheld. We’re only saying that victims of the crime of which that person is accused, they need to be able to have standing under the law to affirm dignity, affirm the right to information, the right to restitution if this follows through, and the right to be part of the process officially. That’s really what this means.

Len Sipes: Well you have a lot of federal crimes that are in the news lately in terms of the military. So what you have is a situation where a lot of women in the military are basically that they were sexually assaulted, and advocates have stated that they have been ignored, that their rights have been ignored, this would provide them with the rights they seek, correct?

Will Marling: Yeah, it would, because an American under the constitution can affirm rights that are inculcated in the constitution. We say inalienable rights and what we mean by that is there are some things we just know are true. The average person knows they’re true. But we still have to state them in the constitution, they have to become part of a written document, so that someone can say hey, right here, we’ve said this. And in the military context, that’s especially true under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, historically, there really are no rights as such for victims of crime. Now, I will say, that in the latest National Defense Authorization Act, the NDAA coming out, there have been some very positive progress with the affirmation of protections for victims. But nonetheless, this is, as I like to say, an amendment would cover a multitude of sins. It would address this issue of victims’ rights, crime victims’ rights, but also it would affirm at large, even those people who don’t engage in the criminal justice process as victims, it would create a national discussion about what rights are, what rights should be and hopefully raise the level of prominence, the needs that people have when they are harmed by others.

Len Sipes: And about 30 states or so have these rights, and the process in those states that do have a constitutional right, a state constitutional right, guarding the rights of victims of crimes, it’s worked in those states, it’s been a sea change. My experience has been that everybody is now very much attuned to the rights of victims because it’s the law. And in some cases you’ve got to spell it out and in some cases you’ve got to make it crystal clear. That’s what others have said to me. Is that correct?

Will Marling: That’s exactly right. Now I will affirm that of the 33 states that we know have crime victims’ rights in the state constitutions, the affirmations in the state constitutions vary from place to place. In other words, what they affirm as a right can be different in another state. But let me give you the example of Arizona, that has had victims’ rights for 20 years and they’ve been able to demonstrate that the process can be safely adjudicated so that the rights of the accused are not impinged upon, and the rights of the victims can be affirmed so that a process can pursue justice. And equitable justice. We know that there are inequities in the system, in many ways, and I recognize that even in my victim advocacy role that the accused many times, can be shortchanged from anything the defense attorney that they’ve been assigned or whatever. But we want to and vigorously want to affirm that the rights that everybody should have and we also say, victims want a good and healthy process for everybody. They don’t want a process where the accused is getting shortchanged, because commonly that just means an appeal, another trial, more and more pain and suffering for them. So you know, that’s really why a fair and balanced system can serve everyone.

Len Sipes: But speaking of pain and speaking of a sense of injustice, the average person going through the criminal justice system before a state constitutional amendment would often times say that it’s the criminal justice system itself that acts as an inhibitor to the healing process. If the state criminal justice system or the federal criminal justice system is going to be so difficult to deal with and where rights are not respected, can you imagine a person going through a violent crime and a family member is a victim or a violent crime and then now, they find that it’s just an impossible process in terms of getting the information that they need, getting the information that they seek, getting the respect that they deserve, and having their day in court, if that was not recognized, if that was not embraced. Then that victim is almost re-victimized, and I’ve heard that from crime victims before the constitutional amendments over and over and over again. The criminal justice system re-victimizes me by not respecting my rights.

Will Marling: You’re exactly right, and it’s one of the many reasons I like you, because you’re in tune with many different facets of the criminal justice system. What we hear as well is re-victimization, re-traumatization, common themes. Why? Because the system itself is a system. It’s a machine. It’s designed with sometimes harsh mechanisms that are without respect for humanity, that’s the system. But the people in the system are the ones that affirm the dignity and compassion that need to be affirmed for people who have suffered so egregious losses. And so, that’s all we’re doing, we’re wanting to affirm those things and we’d love for people just to do that automatically. We’d love for people in the system to affirm inalienable rights of crime victims, that actually many people believe are already there. They have no idea that they’re not there. But we know that those need to be affirmed. So that a victim can say I have the right to this, and I want to assert that right and I want that right protected.

Len Sipes: If you’re interested in additional information or if you would like to support the National Organization for Victim Assistance in terms of this endeavor,, Will, we’re going to move on to the next topic, distance learning with the victim assistance academy. You guys are doing an awful lot of training. You were doing training for the Defense Department in terms of training the trainers, if I remember a previous conversation. All throughout the history of the National Organization for Victim Assistance, you all have been involved in training victims’ advocates throughout the country, throughout the world. Then the next big step, a little while ago, last year was your work with the Defense Department and now you’re talking about a distance learning victim assistance academy. Talk to me about that please.

Will Marling: Yeah, thanks. Just stepping back a little bit just to you know quantify what we’re doing. You’re exactly right, we do a lot of training and it’s in particular in this area of victim advocacy and our side of house with crisis response. Lot of these things revolve around the skills necessary to advocate for people but also trauma mitigation, trauma education in working with those harmed by crime and crisis. With the Department of Defense, we are actually the secretariat for the SAC-P. The Department of Defense Sexual Assault Advocate Certification Program. So we’ve actually collected subject matter experts and they are part of a committee built upon the national advocate-credentialing program that certifies victim advocates specifically in the United States military, all branches. And that’s been a wonderful experience for us of course and we’ve been grateful for the privilege of serving in that way, but also encouraged by steps, small and large, that are being taken in dealing with sexual assaults specifically in the military. And out of that kind of context of seeing needs and the like, we hit on this issue of a distance learning victim assistance academy. Now let me explain that one. Since the mid 80s, when we actually have the vocation of victim advocate emerge, there are a number of states who have developed their own victim assistance academies. And it’s kind of a standard approach, standardized approach, with a 40-hour basic training that touches very skill-based aspects of advocacy. And it’s a very important training, in fact, it’s foundational if you’re going to be a national advocate, nationally advocated credentialed person, you’re going to have at least a 40-hour basic, and what we discovered in our work was that not only are there a number of states that don’t have academies, but are a number of people who are far-flung who don’t have access to that kind of training very readily. And so we have recently launched NOVA’s national victim assistance academy, and it’s a distance-learning concept. In other words, it’s real time, with an instructor, using technology, so that there’s a classroom and people are logging in, in their remote sectors and they’re seeing the instructor as well as seeing a presentation and they can talk to the professor. In fact, we encourage that; we encourage live audio Q&A interaction. And the powerful thing about this is that distance learning dimension means that distance is removed. People are actually taking this training in all parts of the world. All across our country, they’re in Asia; they’re in Europe, and other parts. So we are not only pleased and honored by this, we find that people are extremely receptive to this, plus the instructors we’ve lined up are heroes in this field. Incredible subject matter experts, and many people simply wouldn’t get access to them otherwise, you know, we just can’t ship them around. So it’s a great step for us.

Len Sipes: So the bottom line is that anybody, anywhere in the world can receive this training and you have been on a previous program, we talked about the fact that you’ve been interacting with other countries throughout the world in terms of you know, this whole concept of a constitutional amendment. This whole concept advocating for victims, it’s not just an issue within the United States. You’ve been interacting with people all throughout the world.

Will Marling: Indeed. In fact, we’re starting really a consortium non-profit international and enterprise called Victims of Crime International and I know that isn’t especially creative, but what it does represent this true focus of many people in other parts of the world understanding that victims, victims of crime specifically need support, they need resources, and their voices need to be amplified to their national, their local and national leaders. And that’s what this enterprise is about, specifically Victims of Crime International. And I think the training is going to contribute to that, hopefully as we give people, basically anybody that can get access online can be part of this.

Len Sipes: We’re halfway through the program. I want to re-introduce Will. Will Marling is the Executive Director of the National Organization for Victim Assistance,, Will, I do want to ask you in terms of your interactions with people in other countries; I would imagine everybody has the same issue. I would imagine there’s not a lot of difference between Albuquerque, New Mexico and Katmandu. I would imagine when you’re victimized; I would imagine the criminal justice system is often times not the most receptive place to, not the most supportive place in terms of dealing with victims, dealing with their trauma, dealing with the emotional aspects of being victimized, dealing with their informational needs. I would imagine those problems exist wherever you are in the world.

Will Marling: I would agree. There can be varying reactions to, and you can understand that from the standpoint of even countries that maybe aren’t strong on human rights, we’re experiencing that. I think it’s kind of funny, you name two places, I actually have talked to people about this very issue. Katmandu and New Mexico, of course all across the country there are incredibly gifted and committed people, and even in Katmandu, it’s fascinating the young lawyer that I talk to there, who is really trying to propel the notion of victims’ rights in the context of humans’ rights and he’s just an amazing fellow. The challenge that we do face in varying ways, and I say we, because the human collective represents a commitment to justice anywhere and everywhere. And what we see is sometimes there’s a difference in resourcing, that can be an issue. And that can be here, you can find remote locations in the country where there aren’t as many resources to assist victims of crimes, or you can find locations here where people aren’t maybe well oriented as professional to the needs that victims face, but certainly that is in other parts of the world. That’s why we’re really trying to propel a global voice and a global concept for folks, so that we can shout on behalf of other people in other places that their voice should be heard, we believe that can be beneficial for them. As well as for victims here.

Len Sipes: But it does get back once again to whether you call it a US constitutional amendment, or embodied within the law in different countries, if it’s not embodied in code, if it’s not part of law, if it’s not part of the training of the judiciary, the law enforcement, individuals within the court system, individuals within corrections, if it’s not embodied within law, it tends to be ignored. Or not taken as seriously as it should be taken.

Will Marling: Indeed. And in fact the European Union passed incredibly powerful legislation to affirm victims’ rights and services, and this is, it’s called an EU Directive in that context because the European nations don’t have a constitution as such, they’re a union. Essentially it’s a confederation of states. So they have to have treaties between all of the member states, the 28. And yet their highest level at this point is an EU Directive and the most, this victims’ rights EU Directive that’s being implemented over the next year specifically. There has to be a plan put in place by every member state, but then of course promoting and implementing that goes well beyond. And so that’s what we’re seeing, you know, Europe is seeing the need for this.

Len Sipes: The steam is picking up; the momentum continues to move forward. Just in the United States and throughout the world.

Will Marling: That’s exactly right. The word momentum is a great word, Len, because it represents what we’re trying to see happen and what we are see happen.

Len Sipes: Alright, we’ve talked about the philosophical underpinnings of victims’ rights in the United States; let’s get down to something very practical and very real. Target credit cards, now the National Organization for Victim Assistance has been involved in cybercrime for the last two or three years. You told me on a previous program that you’ve got so many calls from so many people regarding cybercrime that the National Organization for Victim Assistance was willing to move beyond its traditional role in terms of what I refer to as garden variety street crimes and domestic violence and sexual assaults and robberies and burglaries and those sorts of things into cybercrime because simply there was a demand for it, correct?

Will Marling: That’s right. What we were seeing was cyber of course is an extremely popular type of crime, and naturally, the cyber permeates everything we do. We’re all inter-connected. And so we’re getting victim assistance calls, we take thousands of victim assistance calls on our toll free victim assistance line and every year, and when we began to see this uptick, definitely in request for help and assistance, we said ok, we need to pay attention to this. Quite honestly, it just meant, definitely boning up on a lot of the dimensions that are impacted here. So we began to train ourselves internally. We did a lot of training with staff, so we do victim assistance that way. And the Target breach represents, quite candidly, one of many different types. It was a high profile event, and we had calls on behalf of folks who had experienced compromise there. Ironically, Target itself is considered one of the stronger security committed companies, and they have a lot of appropriate and meaningful policies in place, but when you’re talking about a breach that as I see it or understand it occurred, you’re talking about mechanisms that were able to break into basically vaults of information. So it’s very profound and it scared people.

Len Sipes: The Washington Post the other day editorialized that it’s time to embrace the European model, and from what I understand in terms of the European model is that it’s a chip and code based system. So if you don’t have the chip and if you don’t have the code, you don’t have access to the information in the card, but the really interesting factor is, is right now, if you’re victimized through your credit card, you’re not liable. You don’t have to pay those credit card bills. In the European model evidently, once they market the move over to the chip and the pin system, then suddenly you’re stuck with paying those bills if a bad guy gets a hold of your credit card information. Is that correct?

Will Marling: That’s right. Well, the chip and pin is a significant mechanism to protect information. In our country, of course, a credit card compromise like that is considered technically a crime against the bank. That’s why it gets a little complicated because people’s lives are impacted by it. When my credit card number was breached, I didn’t lose track of my card, they got the number from somewhere, the bank was the one that took on the liability. Now under federal law if you report your loss, you can be liable. It’s three days, you can be liable for $50 up to three days, between that and 60 days, your liability can be $500. I’ve never heard of any bank charging that you know to that consumer. So they consider it, I think, a cost of doing business. But what the chip and pin can do, and I used to live in Europe where the chip and pin was important, that chip and that pin have to be, you know, they have to work together. And that significantly limits the risk associated with breach. And it also means there’s, for the bank’s sake, it’s an opportunity to detect when the consumers are actually committing the fraud because you know, in some ways, they have to say, I’m taking you at your work. I had to sign affidavits, I basically swear that I didn’t cause this, I’m not making a false claim, you know, to affirm that I didn’t make those charges, that somebody else had. I actually think that it could be helpful for everybody. But you know, in our society, it’s an issue of convenience and that’s what we’re trying to encourage people to think about. Ok, so it takes a little bit more time to make a transaction. That’s ok. So it’s takes you another 15 seconds. That’s ok.

Len Sipes: Give everybody and those of us in the criminal justice system the three quickest tips to keep ourselves safe from this sort of crime.

Will Marling: Well, yeah we kind of work from a principle, we try to use principles that kind of can be a little pithy that can help people remember. We tell people you are your data. Think about it in that way, when you get a call and it’s a voice, you don’t actually know who that person is. You think you do, because you want to believe what they’re saying to you. But you have to think, they want your data and they’re going to try to get that out of you. Another principle is very simple. If it has a lock, use it. If your phone has a lock, use it. If anything electronic has a lock, your computer, use your lock. Very few people, even if they would say they live in a safe neighborhood, they lock their car when they get out of it. They use their remote, lock it up. We also, this is a really important one in my view, if somebody asks you for information; it’s perfectly acceptable to say, what for. And when they tell you what for, you can decide, mmm, I don’t know if that’s important enough.

Len Sipes: So the bottom line is being unbelievably judicious in terms of providing that information to anybody and if you have questions as to whether or not you’re talking to the real deal, if you’re interacting with the real deal in terms of an internet message, is to call the bank, call the store, not through the telephone number that they provide, but you look it up, you go on the internet, you look up the number, and you call them and you call the billing department and say ok I’ve got this email message from supposedly you guys, is this legit?

Will Marling: That’s right. There are all kind of scams. I’ll give you one that just came to me yesterday. I got an email, allegedly, from the Arizona court of appeals.

Len Sipes: Really?

Will Marling: Yeah. So the idea was that’s terrifying, what’s going on? Well, I knew it was bogus, but you know, we’re busy, you’re not paying attention and so, even there, you say, when asked for, they asked me to click this link and follow up. Well, I’m saying to myself, well what they want that for? Why would they be emailing me? Of course they wouldn’t be. So once we even stop, most of the time, if we just stop and ask a couple of basic questions, wait a minute, then it all rings false, and then we can just stop, but it’s easy to get paranoid these days. Especially if people telling you stuff like this.

Len Sipes: All of us in the criminal justice system, even those who are suspicious of everybody because we’ve been in the criminal justice system for so long, we still get fooled.

Will Marling: Oh yeah. I mean, it’s a common, primarily because we’re busy people and there’s a lot of data passing. And so if an email gets your network and somebody doesn’t reject it and they forward it on to you, that could be, right there, the lynch pin pulled to access your network. How does that happen? It’s not hard. I mean, again, we’re busy people. So it’s diligence.

Len Sipes: Just a couple minutes left Will. You know, when I did auto theft campaigns years ago, we recognized that if the auto industry just implemented certain security procedures in cars it would drive down auto theft considerably and auto theft over the past five, six years has plummeted because of that. There are many people who are basically saying, look, they’re out there stealing iPhones, they’re out there stealing iPads, they’re stealing my electronic devices, why aren’t the companies making these devices to the point where they can be completely worthless, the companies can shut them down. People are saying why can’t the credit card companies make a credit card in such a way that it’s useless if somebody steals it or steals the information. Do you guys get involved in those sort of endeavors working with the automobile manufacturers, working with the credit card companies, working with Apple and other smart phone manufacturers to improve the security of devices?

Will Marling: Well, we sure would. We’re willing and committed to speaking into these issues, not just from a victim’s standpoint but from a potential victim or consumer standpoint, but you find a lot of forces at work. We know right now that within any given cell phone, you can have basically a kill switch. And there are pros and cons at different levels on that. Some people would be concerned that my phone could be killed if somebody decided to do that outside of me. But we know that technology is available. One of the areas where we kind of stumbled into this is an area where cell phone contraband is making it into prisons. And that is making inmates accessible, it’s giving them access to the outside world, we know that they have committed significant crimes, they’ve called contract hits on perspective witnesses, they’ve harassed, they’ve stalked, and that’s the kind of thing, it’s actually a big problem. And one sweep in a California prison, it was 6,000 phones that were found. So it’s things like that that have ancillary effects as well, not just some of the things that even you named, I lose my phone and all my information is on there, man I’d love for that thing to be destroyed, you know, remotely. Because I don’t want anyone to have access to it. And I don’t want them to have access to your phone, Len, because you might have, we might have been talking about sensitive things, you might have an email from me, my contact information, that’s private. So it behooves us all to pay attention to that very thing.

Len Sipes: Well, I’m going to let you have the final word on that topic. I really do wish that the National Organization for Victim Assistance and everybody who supports victims’ rights throughout the United States to be supportive of a United States constitutional amendment for victims of crimes currently working its way through the House of Representatives and also we are all supportive needless to say of additional, every state in the United States should have a constitutional amendment protecting victims’ rights and I think Will would completely agree on that. Ladies and gentlemen, our guess today has been Will Marling, the Executive Director of the National Organization for Victim Assistance,, Ladies and gentlemen, this is DC Public Safety. We appreciate your comments, we even appreciate your criticisms, and we want everybody to have themselves a very, very pleasant day.

[Audio Ends]


Victim Rights in the US and Europe-A US Constitutional Amendment-NOVA-DC Public Safety Radio

Welcome to “DC Public Safety” – Radio and television shows, blog and transcripts on crime, criminal offenders and the criminal justice system.

The portal site for “DC Public Safety” is

Radio Program available at

[Audio Begins]

Len Sipes: From the nation’s capital, this is DC Public Safety. I’m your host Leonard Sipes. Our guest back at our microphones, Will Marling, he is the Executive Director of the National Association for Victim Assistance, Today we’re going to be talking about victims’ rights, international activity on the part of the National Organization for Victim Assistance, and a constitutional amendment, our favorite topic. Will, welcome back to DC Public Safety.

Will Marling: Thank you, Len, as always, wonderful to meet with you.

Len Sipes: Where do you want to start, Will? I mean I’m always interested in the constitutional amendment, so I’d like to start off with that. And just to refresh everybody’s memory, that we have somewhere in a ballpark of about 20, latter 20, 30 states out there that have constitutional amendments protecting victims’ rights, but there is no United States constitutional amendment that applies to federal crimes, correct?

Will Marling: That’s exactly right. Now, there are 33 of the 50 states have state constitutional amendments for victims’ rights, but at a federal level, there are none. And that contrast with upwards of 23 prescribed rights for those who are accused of a crime. But if you take that same crime where somebody is accused, and of course in our system we treat that as an accusation that needs to be tried and considered thoughtfully in a court of law, but in that same crime victimization, the victim of that same situation has no right to rights under the United States Constitution.

Len Sipes: Right. And the whole idea is to expand rights as they apply to federal crimes. But in particular, I’m going to make a leap and suggest that the states that don’t have constitutional amendments protecting victims’ rights, they will be further inclined to consider a constitutional amendment, their own constitutional amendment for victims’ rights, because of the fact that there’s now a federal constitutional amendment for victims’ rights. Am I right or wrong?

Will Marling: Well, certainly. I mean actually that’s a good insight that states constitutions could be amended – 17 states that don’t have it could be amended to include victims’ rights. I think the main push for us is that at a federal level, since we don’t have a victims’ rights amendment to the United States Constitution, we certainly have the Crime Victims’ Rights Act, which as a federal act, does provide rights, and services, and provisions for federal crime victims, but of course that’s 5% or less of what goes on. Most crimes are tried at a state and local level. So a United States constitutional amendment would do two major things, two big things. One big thing is that, similar and parallel to the average citizen who might be accused of that crime, the process of providing protections under the law for that accused would be there, but also the victims. And so, just like we have things like Miranda that went all the way to the Supreme Court, we could also have, victims could argue their case under the Constitution. And secondly, another dimension that’s quite intriguing to us is that soldiers would also have victims’ rights. Under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, there are some legislative rights, just like there are even in non-constitutional states, but from the standpoint of victims’ rights, this would actually address that. A U.S. soldier who is a victim of a crime could also appeal to the United States Constitution as a victim to protect those liberties, for the rights of that victim.

Len Sipes: And where that’s really important are the accusations of rape and sexual assault against female members of the Armed Forces. So there, they certainly have protections that they never had before.

Will Marling: Well, that’s true, and just to kind of bring in a balance there, the military is 85% male, and so numerically actually sexual assault against men is the preponderance. Now, since there is a 15% female population in the military, sexual assault has a higher proportion against women, but sometimes people don’t actually recognize that men as well as women in the United States Military are being sexually assaulted. And of course, both need to be respected in the service, they need to have rights affirmed, and then they need to have fair just processes to protect them going forward.

Len Sipes: A very important clarification, something that did not come to mind. You’re doing victim assistance training, I remember from a radio show months back, for the Department of Defense, correct?

Will Marling: Well, yeah. The Department of Defense project that we’re working is actually certification. The Department of Defense has the Sexual Assault Response and Prevention Office, it’s out of the Pentagon, and that office has been specifically tasked with dealing with the problem, the crime, of sexual assault. And we work with that entity to certify the victim advocates in the United States Military and those come under the moniker of the Department of Defense Sexual Assault Advocate Certification Program. Great, long military acronym as usual. But it’s an important one, because what we’re doing is we’re affirming standards of care for those advocates who are serving sexual assault victims in all branches of the military.

Len Sipes: Now, where are we with the constitutional amendment, any progress, any more support? I mean between the federal shutdown and debates over the Affordable Care Act, they seem to be busy with other things. Are they being supportive of…? Do they have additional members of…? The constitutional amendment starts off in the House, correct?

Will Marling: In this particular exercise and this particular strategy, we are working in the United States House of Representatives to start.

Len Sipes: Okay.

Will Marling: Under Article 5 of the Constitution, to amend the Constitution you could work through Congress first, either side. Both houses, both sides of Congress, have to amend, well, they have to approve by two thirds majority, any amendment to the Constitution, and then it would go to the states for ratification, three quarters of the states need to do that. You could start with the states and then work to Congress. We’re starting with the House of Representatives, because that’s the place that probably, from the standpoint of where we are, is maybe the biggest hill to climb.

Len Sipes: Okay.

Will Marling: But when we get that then we move forward.

Len Sipes: So you can start either in the House or the Senate, you just chose to start at the House?

Will Marling: We chose to start in the House in this particular context, just because of the current environment, the structure of the House at present; we felt it was a place to really address first. There’s been strong support historically anyway, for constitutional amendment in the Senate, and the last foray into this particular arena was started in the Senate. And so, yeah, it came two votes shy of cloture which was moving it to a vote, moving it out of committee, into a vote. And we just needed two votes to get it out and then to the floor, and there were forces at work, but that shows how much progress can be made.

Len Sipes: All right. So you were two votes short in committee in the Senate. I don’t mean to be too technical about this. So but for whatever reason you decide this time around to go in the House of Representatives to start there.

Will Marling: Right.

Len Sipes: Okay. How much support have you gotten?

Will Marling: Well, we’re currently quietly and carefully educating members of the House of Representatives. And what I would say is obviously it’s a big issue. To give perspective in any two year session of Congress. You can have between 12 and 14,000 bills presented.

Len Sipes: Right.

Will Marling: So between 2% and 4% of those pass. And when you’re talking about amending the Constitution, of course you’re talking about a smaller number. So we’re taking the time and giving the effort to going door to door in a sense, educating members, because they have so much that’s pulling at their attention, vying for their interest.

Len Sipes: Sure.

Will Marling: And so we just want to – we’re being very systematic in saying, “Here’s the amendment as it stands to propose. It’s House Joint Resolution 40. Give it some consideration. Let’s continue to educate-talk about the value that this represents, not only to the nation now, but to our posterity.”

Len Sipes: Well, are you encouraged? Do you think it’s going to go through this time? Do you think you’ll have enough support in the House? And consequently, do you think you’ll have the equal amount of support in the Senate?

Will Marling: Well, it’s about timing. We have, from the Senate side, Senate leadership I think has inferred and indicated that, “Hey, let’s see what you can do in the House side.” because that’s kind of a heavier lift, it’s a larger body of people, there are a lot more things at work, a lot of more issues at play. And if we can get through there then I think there’s a focus for the Senate to say, “Okay, there’s momentum, let’s work on it from our side.” In the House side, I would say I’m encouraged by the progress we’re making. I can’t specify for you specific benchmarks as such. It certainly can garner co-sponsorship and folks in your listening network who have the mind to look it up and contact their legislator to say in the House, “Hey, would you consider co-sponsoring House Joint Resolution 40?” We’re all for that. What we’re finding there are, as you mentioned right at the outset, there were a couple of big forces at work, including the shutdown and then the deliberations over the Affordable Care Act. So actually Congress, many parts of Congress, many would know here, because I’m in the Washington D.C. area too, people were working, there were things that were going on in Congress, and we did see some activity, and we were having conversations even then. So I’m encouraged, that’s how I would say. It’s a long slow deliberate process and of course timing is everything here, as you know, Len.

Len Sipes: Oh yeah. And it’s a bit of a risk because you’re starting off in the House, and the House; they only have two year tenures.

Will Marling: Well, that’s right.

Len Sipes: [OVERLAY] said that they have six year tenures.

Will Marling: Right.

Len Sipes: So you could find people who are supportive and they could be voted out.

Will Marling: Well, that’s right. But what our hope is in this particular term, if we can get the House to approve it, then if the House changes and we move over to the Senate to get approval, we’ve got that kind of momentum, as opposed to vice versa. Because you can educate, go to the Senate, maybe they approve it, then you have another election cycle, more changes, more education. And so we’re trying to play this smart.

Len Sipes: Constitutional amendments are extraordinarily rare. I mean everybody listening to this program needs to understand that. It’s difficult to get an amendment to the United States Constitution. There simply aren’t that many of them.

Will Marling: Well, that’s right. I mean, I don’t know what the average is. My speculation is they’re like 20 years at best, in terms of how often we amend the Constitution. And some would contend that amending the Constitution shouldn’t be done, or even very extremely rarely, and I agree. I mean my personal principal is, yeah, that’s true. It was not a perfect document, but a strong document. I’ve been reading about the early days of our Constitution and its founding. But at the same time, the founders wisely understood that it needs to be amended. And we know historically, there were important things to give citizens in this country a freedom, for one, and give other members of this society the right to vote, for another. And of course, if we didn’t have a process for amending, or if we didn’t make a commitment to amending, that would not have happened. So helping people understand by and large that victims of crime, those who are drawn into the systems, the justice systems of state, local, and as well federal government, without rights, they have no standing in that system under the law, they just don’t. They work for the government as such, as a witness, at best.

Len Sipes: And we understand that that’s fundamentally wrong, that victims of crimes should have constitutional protections at the federal level and in every state throughout the United States.

Will Marling: Well, that’s right. Because the average citizen, if you walked out on the street and just started interviewing people, and said, “Okay, if you’re accused of a crime, let’s say you’re arrested, what are your rights?” And most people, my kids, I’ve got teenagers, and they’d say, “We have the right to remain silent. And if you give up the right to remain silent – on, and on, and on.” Why? Because they’ve seen Miranda played out on television shows.

Len Sipes: Right.

Will Marling: If you turn around and say, “Okay, you’re the victim of that crime, what rights do you have?” They’re going to say, “Uh, well, uh, hmm, I’m not sure.” But that victim should have rights. Most people would contend that victims should have rights, because at the heart of it, they’re the one that experiences the brunt of the harm. And it’s always shocking for people to experience that firsthand, that, “Oh, I don’t have the rights I thought I did.”

Len Sipes: Well, I interviewed Lisa Spicknall, who is a victim’s advocate, and went through a tragic experience of having her own two children, infant children, murdered by a former husband, domestic violence and victim’s issue all rolled up into one. And as a victim’s advocate, that’s one of the things that she said very, very clearly, is that very few people understand that the criminal justice system is built around the offender not the victim.

Will Marling: That is exactly right. And our contingent is not to take away one right from the accused, at all. If I’m accused of a crime, under the Constitution, I want every protection, because I didn’t commit that crime, I’ve been falsely accused, and I want a deliberate consideration of the truth of that matter. At the same time, victims not having rights should change; because the treatment, the respect, the dignity, the right even to know what’s going on, is not a given in our society, believe it or not. The right to be told how this process is moving forward, how prosecution is interacting with the accused, in some sectors, you don’t have any right to any information about a case that applies directly to you.

Len Sipes: I just find that astounding. I, as a member of the criminal justice system for well over 40 years, I just find that astounding. But we’re more than halfway through the program. Let me reintroduce you, Will. Ladies and gentlemen, our guest today is Will Marling; he is the Executive Director for the National Association for Victim Assistance, On your website,, you’ll find information about the constitutional amendment and find information about victims’ rights. How many people does the National Organization for Victims Assistance on a yearly basis, Will?

Will Marling: Well, it depends on how you want to calculate that. We have a toll free victim assistance line, 800-trynova, and that is nationwide, North American as well, we get some Canadian calls, we also get an occasional international call, but we take about 6,000 victim assistance calls a year on that line, and as well, we take a number of victims’ assistance e-mails. We will tell people that I would let people know, we don’t do a lot of victims’ assistance over e-mails, specifically because e-mail is not secure…

Len Sipes: Right.

Will Marling: Especially in some contexts. You do not want a domestic violence victim communicating details that could be accessed by a perpetrator. And also, it’s just complex. We know we’d like to talk to people real time to ask meaningful questions that help get to the resources they need. But otherwise we do take those e-mails, and then of course we do a lot of training with advocates. So we feel like, as a network, we touch literally thousands of people beyond even our victims’ assistance [INDISCERNIBLE 00:16:14], because of the great network we have, incredible, incredible, people.

Len Sipes: Well, that is the heart and soul of the National Organization for Victim Assistance, the fact that you are all involved in certifying and training and assisting victims’ advocates throughout the United States. And that’s one of the reasons why you are certifying the victims’ advocates for the US Department of Defense.

Will Marling: That’s right. Yeah, I mean we’re extremely proud of that. It’s humbling; I will admit to you, because there’re so many that do such good work. We are one of other really good, viable, committed, national, and local, and state, victim assistance type organizations. But I’m honored to lead the organization that actually tends to be, has to be the oldest. And some of my European colleges indicated that they believe that they believe that Nova is the oldest victim assistance organization of its kind in the world, let alone the nation. But many good organizations have emerged after that. I sometimes say, in hopefully a humble way, that a good bit of Nova DNA actually does transmit out to many of the wonderful organizations that are at work today in this area.

Len Sipes: Well, what I’d like to joke about, and it’s really not a joke, and take it in all seriousness, is that as a member of criminal justice system for, again, over 40 years, and at the national and state level, when you got a call from Nova, you paid a lot of attention to whoever was on the end of the phone, because Nova carried a lot of clout. So Nova’s carrying a lot of clout internationally. Tell me about the international activities that Nova’s been involved in?

Will Marling: Yeah, we’ve been meeting with some international colleagues. And it’s a very informal process at the moment. We’ve established a small working group, two weeks ago, very recently, obviously, to this program. We met New York City. And representatives of Victims’ Support Europe as well as a group from Korea, there’s a crime victim assistance network there. We met in New York City, in Manhattan, near the United Nations, as a focal point to discuss how we could collaborate and raise the voice to victims internationally. And we’ve established what is simply called the Victims of Crime International. I know it’s not real creative, but…

Len Sipes: Oh, it’s very Google friendly.

Will Marling: Yeah, thank you. And for search engine optimization, we’re trying to be really functional. But what it represented is a working group, to bring together thoughts on how we can better organize, and of course, as an entity, pursue some funding that might help facilitate these conversations and collaborations internationally. The reality is that I even mentioned here, we have some growing to do, even with our own Constitution and victims’ rights. Europe is taking some leadership with a very recent directive that is probably one of the most powerful national, internationally – a European Union directive for victims’ rights and services, that touches all 28 member states in the European Union, and of course like 120 languages. And bringing those voices together with ours and with those in Asia, some really good victim services and victims’ rights being done in Asia, we believe the opportunity is ripe for us to join those and affirm really international standards for these kind of things, and an international commitment. Because in some countries the human rights is a consideration that should be on the table, let alone victim rights. So we believe the time is now really to enhance the needs of victims around the world.

Len Sipes: Here’s an observation. I don’t know if it’s true or not. I remember a lot of victims’ work decades ago being done through the United Nations. Now it seems as if the European Union is taking the lead in terms of international victims’ rights. Am I right or wrong?

Will Marling: Well, you’ve got some good observations. The United Nations has focused on victims’ rights, and it’s not specifically or solely focused on crime victims’ rights in that sector. They have different foci; they have different dimensions to that. They do have an area that focuses on crime victim related issues. But the European Union has demonstrated some very strong leadership in the past two years, specifically, related to this directive. Victim Support Europe has been functioning for 25 years. And so I think it’s a combination of both, that the United Nations has obviously large peace agenda items – I mean the issues of war and peace and the demands on them to try and facilitate those things are big – along with human rights and then the issues related to crime victims’ rights. So what I’m hoping happens is that it truly becomes synergistic and that it become collaborative, even at a EU, European Union, and United Nations, level.

Len Sipes: Now, what prompted the activities and the connections in terms of the European Union? I mean was it part of recognizing that Nova is the oldest organization in probably the world, in terms of protecting victims’ rights? Did they come to you on that basis or is there something spurring the development of victims’ rights? Is there a new victims’ rights movement in Europe that’s spurring this?

Will Marling: Both. Both of those were really keen observations, Len. The first thing was that, relationally, Nova and Victims Support Europe, we ended up kind of speaking at each other’s conferences, and talking, and getting to know one another. So there was this, I call it a providential relational overlap, where we said, “Oh, wow! You’re doing that and we’re doing this.” And we started kind of cross-collaboration and training. And that caused us to start talking more specifically about the similarities and differences with our works, but also the needs around the world. At the same time, the issue of victims’ rights has emerged. In July, no June, of this year, European Union leadership, as well as the US Attorney General, met in Dublin, Ireland before, I think it was the G8 summit or after, I can’t remember which. But they met and the agenda item specifically was victims’ rights in our two particular sectors, Europe and the United States. And so, yes, there is this focus right now, for whatever reason, on victims’ rights and services, and the importance they should have to both the United States and the European Union.

Len Sipes: I don’t want to get into a larger discussion of crime, but crime tends to go up and down. Not necessarily in the same percentages, but the trend lines seem to go up and down, regardless as to whether it’s the United States, Canada, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, the Western industrialized countries, Japan, I mean there are a lot trend lines that are similar. And I’ve noticed that the Bureau of Justice Statistics came out a couple of days ago and said that we now have had two consecutive years in a row of rising property and violent crime in the United States. So it seems to me that, possibly, because we’ve had coming off a 20 year decline overall, in terms of violent and property crime, that the issue of victims’ rights may have taken a bit of backseat, because the overall crime issue has taken a bit of backseat. But with rising crime, do you feel that that gives a greater emphasis, that places a greater emphasis, and the proper emphasis, back on victims’ rights?

Will Marling: Well, that could be true. I would track with you that there are these larger trends sometimes that are beyond even the more obvious things of financial declines or whatever. There are a number of forces, as I’ve read, that can create increases and decreases in crime rate. What I try to always bring in terms of my role as focusing on the needs and the voices of victims is that even when there’s a decline in the crime rate, there’s still a lot of victims.

Len Sipes: Oh, yes.

Will Marling: Even when it goes down. And of course we celebrate every percentage point that crime decline represents. At the same time, there are still profound needs that exist there. So I suspect that you’re right. My sense is that with a greater focus on the rates going up, that there’s greater media exposure, and some interest in this kind of story. And what are we going to do about it? What needs to be done about it? Of course, how can we affect, hopefully, a decline in the crime rate? And that could well be why we’re seeing that greater interest.

Len Sipes: One of the other topics that you want to talk about. Well, you’ve had some additional information on victims’ rights beyond the international and beyond the constitutional amendment, anything new there?

Will Marling: Well, internationally, the victims’ rights issues?

Len Sipes: No, no, no, I mean are there victims’ right issues that are coming up, bubbling up, in the United States that go beyond what we’ve talked about in terms of international activity, and go beyond what we’ve talked about in terms of the constitutional amendment?

Will Marling: Well, there certainly can be specific and isolated battles for just dignity and respect for victims. You worked for 40 years with law enforcement and you’re, in many ways I’ve told you, you’re my poster child for the kind of officer the victims would want to have and take that report because you have a sensitive concerned spirit, but you’re also extremely competent. Both of those things –

Len Sipes: But I think most of us in the criminal justice system are pro-victims. I think it’s the bureaucracy that simply gets in the way of treating victims as if they need, as they need to be treated. We’ve had cutbacks throughout the country in terms of law enforcement officers. We’ve had cutbacks throughout the country in terms of parole and probation agents. I mean we’ve had some police departments, some major police departments, where they’ve lost 30%, 40%, and in some cases in New Jersey, 50% of their police officers. When you’re struggling with cutbacks and you’re struggling with lack of manpower lack of person power, you don’t have a lot of time to give to victims of crime. So I think we are pro-victim, but I think at the same time there’s only so much time that you can give. And when you cut the time back that far, I think victims get hurt in the process.

Will Marling: You’re right. There’s no question about that. And when we take victim assistance calls here, and I try to do my part in assisting there, and use my expertise, but also contribute time to helping a victim on a victim assistance call, it’s not uncommon for me to try to educate them, it’s not an excuse for them, because when they’re struggling, they’re looking for help, and it’s hard to say to them, “That officer couldn’t give you as much time as you would’ve wanted.” Why? “Because they’re stretched thin.” At the same time, we try to educate on those very issues to give people context for the limitations of resources that might exist, and also to encourage our officers, and prosecutors, and the like, that even sometimes the smallest simplest declarations of respect and also control, small demonstrations of giving control, can make such a profound difference. We go back to the issue of trauma with victims. The cause of trauma primarily in folk, is when they lose control. And that control is beyond their capacity, either to respond to, or to react to. And then, when having lost control that has resulted in a loss of life, or an injury, or even finances, or as we many times say, the loss of innocence now, when we give them back an opportunity to control, that can be very therapeutic in their lives. And so it’s hard. You’re exactly right. When you’re stretched thin and you’re running from call to call – my heart goes out to these folks who are working so diligently, and it can be hard to be – exude more patience in that context. At the same time, I can encourage them that whenever even the smallest step of respect and control is offered, they might not know how big a difference that can make.

Len Sipes: Well, and I think that’s the message to all of us within the criminal justice system, is that we must reach down deep, and I know we’re busy, I know we’re running from call to call, I know parole and probation agencies have huge caseloads, I know correctional officers have huge caseloads; but all of us need to reach in deep and get beyond the moment, and realize that that’s somebody’s mother, that’s somebody’s father, that somebody’s brother or sister. I mean we really have to have some sympathy and provide some respect for the victims, as well as making sure that we protect the rights of victims, and that’s best done through a constitutional amendment.

Will Marling: You are spot-on. I couldn’t have said it better.

Len Sipes: I mean sometimes it takes that, it takes the law, it said, “Okay, it’s no longer optional, folks. It’s the law.”

Will Marling: That’s right.

Len Sipes: We must follow the law. So regardless of how busy we are, we need to adhere to the law and respect victims.

Will Marling: That’s right. But we live in rule of law society and that means that law is king. Not a person, law is king. And so we refer – what does the king say? The law as king says, “This is the way it is.” And until we really, we can say we believe so many things, we can say there are inalienable rights, but we have to articulate those in a constitutional sense, or a legal sense, at the very least, to say, “This is what matters to us.”

Len Sipes: Well, –

Will Marling: And that empowers the system.

Len Sipes: Well, you’ve got the final word, ladies and gentlemen; we’ve been talking to Will Marling. He is the Executive Director of the National Association for Victim Assistance., We appreciate your calls. We appreciate your e-mails. We even appreciate your comments and criticisms. And we want everybody to have themselves a very, very pleasant day.

[Audio Ends]


Identity Theft-NOVA-DC Public Safety Radio

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[Audio Begins]

Len Sipes:  From the nation’s capital, this is DC Public Safety.  I’m your host, Leonard Sipes.  Our program today, ladies and gentlemen, identity theft and scams, and back by popular demand, Will Marling the Executive Director of the National Organization for Victim Assistance,, and Denise Richardson, she is a consumer advocate and an ID theft education specialist.  She is at, and to Denise and to Will, welcome back to DC Public Safety.

Will Marling:  Thank you Leonard.  Good to be with you.

Denise Richardson:  Thank you Len.

Len Sipes:  Well, it’s always a lot of fun.  I mean I was laughing hard right before I hit the record button because we have such a good time because I’m amazed all the time as to the new things both of you come up with in terms of what’s happening with identify theft, what’s happening with computer-related  theft, what’s happening with fraud.  But—well, before getting into all that, where are we with the constitutional amendment?  At the last program, we were talking about a federal constitutional amendment regarding victim’s rights and set the stage for that most of the states in the United States do have a constitutional amendment protecting the rights of victims and now what we’re doing is going for a federal constitutional amendment, correct?

Will Marling:  That’s right.  Thirty-three of 50 states in our United States have constitutional amendments in the state constitutions.  There’s a lot of story and history and research behind all this, but we know now’s the time to have a thorough and consistent constitutional amendment for victims.  Twenty three rights for the accused in our United States Constitution, of course, appropriate to that need, but zero for victims of crime and so we see the need to change that.

Len Sipes:  Well, it’s—what do you think the odds are of actually getting it through?  I mean any constitutional amendment, if anybody knows anything about constitutional history; they know that amendments don’t come easy.  It sometimes takes a long time to get a constitutional amendment through the United States Constitution.  What are the odds of this actually happening?

Will Marling:  Odds are high.  I’ll tell you why.  First of all, we’ve been working on this, not just for months, but 20 years or more and this has made its run on numerous occasions and has not made it for different reasons, but now is the time, and I’ll tell you why.  First of all, the country needs this.  We need a social change perspective about the needs and rights of victims.  Secondly, we’re in a unique period where the change is afoot.  We’re going into a big election year.

Len Sipes:  Yes, we are.

Will Marling:  And as well, I mean most legislatures aren’t gonna stand against victim’s rights.  They know intuitively that’s the right thing—

Len Sipes:  Especially during an election year.

Will Marling:  Yeah, and so, but there—we believe they’re gonna stand with this.  It’s really building the momentum and making the case, which is appropriate for legislators to understand that this is—the amendment reads well.  It reads like a constitutional should and it reflects the constitutional rights that people inherently think should be there.  I mean, I use this example, if I might, just historically, most people knew that slavery was wrong.  They just knew it was wrong, and yet we had to have a constitutional change for rule of law and will firm what every—but what most people already knew.  Even people involved in it knew that it was wrong—same thing with voting.  I mean, women were not given the right to vote until not that long ago.  We all inherently knew that women should vote, but we needed to change the constitution.  People in the United States know inherently that victims should have rights, and that’s why we simply need to inculcate that in the United States Constitution as with many other social needs and social issues and rights and so forth.

Len Sipes:  Ladies and gentlemen, the National Organization for Victim Assistance is one of the oldest and one of the most respected organizations in the United States in terms of victim assistance.  They’ve been at this for how many years Will?

Will Marling:  Since 1975.

Len Sipes:  Since 1975.  And as member of the criminal justice system, when you get that call from, you know, somebody from the National Organization for Victim Assistance it’s like, oh my heavens, what did we do or what did we not do.  So you all have the clout.  You all have the reputation.  In fact, your reputation is so good you’re now training everybody in the Department of Defense certifying their victim assistance people.

Will Marling:  Well, that’s so kind of you Len.

Len Sipes:  No, it’s true.  It’s true.  I just wanna make sure that everybody understands the prestige of a National Organization for Victim Assistance.  You all have done fantastic work.  And again, for the curious, because most people associate your organization with victims of rape and robbery and other violent crimes, you got involved in this issue of identity theft because of why?

Will Marling:  We got involved because we were starting to get calls for assistance, we have a toll-free victim assistance line, and we started to get these calls, and we weren’t really sure what to do with them historically; violent crime was our particular area of expertise, and we realized, now wait a minute.  There’s something going on here and, of course, we got involved and said, let’s do something about it.  Have—work to focus on remediation, victim assistance, but it’s also opened our eyes that identity theft, and the cyber issues that we’re focusing on actually touch many other crime victimization areas like domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking.  These electronic tools can become electronic weapons much like anything else.

Len Sipes:  It’s all intertwined.

Will Marling:  It’s all intertwined, yep.

Len Sipes:  And give me the example that you were talking about before I hit the record button.  I find this astounding that you were talking to a grandmother whose supposed son called her.  This isn’t done via e-mail; it’s not done via a letter, but they actually called the grandmother basically saying, hi.  It’s me.  It’s Chris, and I’m down here, and I’ve got into a jam, and I need for you to send me $500, and they got all the information they needed to make the story credible off of a Facebook page.

Will Marling:  That’s exactly right.  This is a common scenario.  Somebody gets a call.  They purport to be a relative, like a grandchild, they speak English articulately and so the thresholds for questioning that can be lowered as the person says, okay, this might be my grandchild and because the child is in need or purports to be in need, that, of course—that concern also can lower that questioning, that discernment.  Because if your grandchild is in trouble, and they’re only asking for 500 bucks to get out of a—to deal with a speeding ticket that they achieved in Canada, then you’re more likely to say, well, okay it’s, you know, it’s—I want to help my grandchild.

Len Sipes:  And if you go on the Facebook page, and if you’re getting all this information, you know, and you know that they prefer to be called by their grandkids, grandmommy, and grandmommy, look, you know, I really, you know, need you, you know, I know you’re all the way down there in Baltimore, but I need for you—I mean, you know, they can throw in information that makes it—makes the call come alive.

Will Marling:  Well, absolutely.  And here’s the thing.  Thirty-three percent, according to the recent research from Javelin, 33%—I think it’s 31 actually—31% of people put their full year and birthday on there.  So you know exactly how old somebody is.  It’s not just the—so there’s a test for an older generation person who’s probably gonna have grandchildren and then if you have all this other information, you can add those things today simply to become seemingly more credible.

Len Sipes:  Yep, looking forward to seeing you on your birthday in July.

Will Marling:  Yeah, exactly.

Len Sipes:  Yep.

Will Marling:  Yeah.

Len Sipes:  Amazing.  Denise Richardson, consumer advocate ID theft, education specialist, Denise we’ve really enjoyed in the audience, really enjoyed your participation the last time.  It was really interesting.  You come up with some of the most interesting things.  Give me your perspective as to what Will just had to say.  You know it’s startling to me.  I know about e-mail frauds.  I know about phishing schemes.  I know about letter—kind of contacts by letter, but it takes a tremendous amount of gull to pick up the phone and call somebody.

Denise Richardson:  It does and as Will was saying, you know identity theft takes many different forms, and they can—these bad guys have gotten very good at what they do and I always come at it from the perspective of my own life experiences, the consumers that come to me and tell me their stories, the consumers that share their stories on my blog, and though they always seem amazed that they had heard of this latest scam, I continue to be amazed at how little information is out there until someone has already been tripped up by it and fallen victim to it.  My own mom—I share my own life experiences too because I encourage other people to, but I shared not too long ago a situation that happened to my mom several weeks ago where her first thing she said to me when I answered the phone was you’re not going to like this.  And I thought, oh know.  And she proceeded to tell me that, you know, she had started seeing a new doctor, and she lives, you know, in a different state, and she started seeing a new doctor and so, when she got a call from someone asking for her information, in her mind, because she’s an elderly senior, she thought it was Medicare.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Denise Richardson:  And so, when she gave little bits of information, oh, are you calling about my Medicare bill, of course, they’re gonna go along with what she gives them, and she ended up giving them her social security number and other information, which, of course, immediately I knew why she said I wasn’t gonna like it.  But one of the things I found out in this particular telemarketing scam, it led me to learn something that came—you know when you think you see it all—my mom was particularly stressed out by this and scared, rightfully so, that she did this.

She was upset with herself, but in order to try to correct it quickly it made her more panicked and there’s no easy way to contact the Credit Bureau and incidentally you know, notify them, put a fraud alert on.  Because if you’ve ever tried, you get these automated, you know, most places now you get these long menus that you call and that just intimidated her and made her more upset, so there needs to be some sort of way that, especially seniors or even, you know, more challenged vulnerable people in our communities, our families, have a way to access someplace quickly to notify that you’ve become a victim.

Len Sipes:  Okay, let’s just get into prevention measures.  We go into a thousand different directions every time we talk—because I want to get back to this concept of the fact that people are calling, and you take a look at your caller ID, and it shows a local number, which gives it credibility.  In one case, it gives the identification of the local police department who is calling you to say that you have unpaid parking tickets, and then you’re looking at your caller ID, and it says, well, you know, Baltimore Police Department and you assume that this is not fraudulent, but first—I mean let’s go back.  Bottom line is don’t give out any information over the phone period.  They’re not gonna call you.  Reputable organizations are not going to call you.  Is that the first rule?

Denise Richardson:  Absolutely.  And do not trust your caller ID.  The caller ID—there’s a term—it’s being coined spoofing.  They can spoof your caller ID and cause the display to be any entity they want.  They could be calling from another country, and it could say the name of a bank, a credit union, or an electric company.

Len Sipes:  So, just because it comes up as a legitimate, excuse me, as a legitimate identifier on your caller ID, does not mean it’s legitimate.  The bottom line is don’t give out information over the phone.  If your bank calls you, you say thank you very much, what is your name, what is your telephone number, and then you go and look up a number that you know is a correct number—that there is no question that it’s a correct number and then you call them.

Denise Richardson:  Sure, check on your latest billing statements.  You can look it up in the phone book, but call the number that you know is legitimate, and it really is someone calling from your bank or from some institution that you do business with and you tell them, you know, I’m a little leery of identity theft, I’d like to call you back.  They’re going to say certainly, on that extension 1324.  You can go look up the number and then when you get that specific legitimate company—

Len Sipes:  But don’t call them back at that number though.

Denise Richardson:  No, no.  Never call them back at the number that you receive in an e-mail, text, or voice mail or on the phone.  Look up the number first.

Len Sipes:  Will, was it you or Denise, who said that there really was a scam where supposedly the police department called about unpaid parking tickets, and the name of the police department popped up on the caller ID?

Will Marling:  Yep, yep.  We have those cases.  Indeed, yeah.

Len Sipes:  My God, that’s so wrong on so many levels and could be so disastrous to the well-being of human beings.  What if you got a call from the local police department saying, come out now and come down to the station, we need to talk about something, and if I saw the local police department up on my phone I’d probably do it.  I mean I keep saying to myself, I’ve been involved in the criminal-justice  system for over 40 years, and you keep telling me stuff that even I would buy into, and I don’t trust anybody.

Will Marling:  Right.  Well, the issue here that Denise is making—the point that she is making, as well as I make, is that the basic issue of paying attention.  Just paying attention and asking some questions on the very front end is completely appropriate.  For credible legitimate people calling, which seems to become rarer and rarer, they’re gonna be willing to cooperate.  But for others, you know, they’re gonna try to talk you into some quick decision, get information out of you as quickly as possible because they might be nearby, but to be honest, they might be in another country, and you don’t know where they are.

Len Sipes:  Mm-hmm.

Will Marling:  I mean it can get really complicated that way.

Len Sipes:  Mm-hmm.  All right—

Denise Richardson:  They’re very tricky at what they do and make sure when you hang up the phone with them that you hang up and pick the phone back up and hear your dial tone because there’s been instances where they have stayed on the line, and someone picks up the phone, and you’re dialing your number, but you really still have the scammer on the other end of the phone.

Len Sipes:  Oh, this is too amazing.  We’re half way through the program, ladies and gentlemen.  Are we all frightened now?  We’re half way through the program with—

Denise Richardson:  And I’m glad you said that Len, because really, and I know Will feels the same way—these are not stories.  These are factual things that we hear from people who contact us, but in order for us to share this information, some people may say well, you’re scaring us, but really the only way you can get this information out there is—

Len Sipes:  This is vital information.  People need to hear this.

Denise Richardson:  And often times they don’t understand it with just, you know, shred your documents or whatever.  They need to hear about the types of scams that come across where they could easily fall for them.  Like you said, you’re a very intelligent man.  You’ve been in the justice system and you—there’re so savvy that they could even trick you.

Len Sipes:  It would fool me, and that’s the thing that scares me.  All right, let me reintroduce both of you.  Ladies and gentlemen, more than half way through the program, Will Marling the Executive Director of the National Organization for Victim Assistance,  Denise Richardson, she is a consumer advocate and an ID theft education specialist,  Both of those websites will be in the show notes.  All right, where do we go to from here?  What’s new on the identity theft and fraud horizon Denise?

Denise Richardson:  Well, the types and varying trends.  A lot of what I’m seeing and hearing—you know, we—we’re telling people don’t give your information to strangers, don’t give your information to people who call you, e-mail you, or come door-to-door, but you also need to be aware that whatever information you are giving, sometimes to trusted individuals, does not mean that you’re immune from an identity theft.  In a lot of situations lately, especially where I live in Florida which is number one on the list always for all sorts of fraud unfortunately, and I think it can be somewhat attributed to if you are a criminal do you want to live in, you know, in a populated where—

Len Sipes:  Do you like snow or do you not like snow.

Denise Richardson:  Exactly, exactly.  So we’re accustomed to all sorts of scams and frauds, but we’re number one because we still are gonna fall for it, but not only that.  You go into hospitals.  You give your information to hospital employees.  Think of all the places you give your information to trusted individuals, whether they’re bank tellers, whether they work in a government office.  Each of those—

Len Sipes:  Your cable company.

Denise Richardson:  Exactly.  Each of those places—I could point you to actual arrests of rouge employees in those particular businesses who have sold the business or the organization’s information.

Len Sipes:  How do you stop that?  All right, I mean I—everything else falls under the umbrella of do not reactively give information to anybody under any circumstances regardless as to how credible they seem.  Thank the person, stop the e-mail, stop the phone call, put down the letter, and contact that entity through a number that you know is valid.  That’s the number-one rule.  So in terms of those people who legitimately get our information, how do you stop that?

Denise Richardson:  Well, you know, and Will may have a different view on this, but my view is you can’t stop that because you never know when any company out there is gonna have a data breach or how—or if there’s gonna be an insider who is approached by an ID theft ring who offers you money to give them information, which has just been in the news a lot down here where there was hospital employees, or you know a lot of our police and fire had their social security numbers sold by insiders, rogue employees.

Len Sipes:  Oh, that’s terrible.

Denise Richardson:  Yeah.  You cannot stop it, but what you can be is aware and know what to look for.  Check your bank statements.  Check your credit reports, you know, do what you can.  I always say, you know, living here in Florida I can’t stop a hurricane from coming.  I certainly can’t control Mother Nature, but what I do is I get batteries, and I make sure come hurricane season I have all the supplies and you know, things that I need to lessen the impact.

[Len Sipes:  All right, so the bottom line is check our statements, check your credit card statement, check your bank statement, check all statements and make sure that the information on there is accurate.

Denise Richardson:  Correct.  And if you see any red flags, you know, then you can know, you know, instinctively in advance.  You’re more prepared, and I guess that’s the message.  Just don’t put your guard down.  I’m not saying you have to live paranoid, but live wise.  You know, just pay attention to your bank accounts and your credit reports and do what you can to minimize the impact if it does hit you.

Len Sipes:  Will, this harkens back decades ago when I was in the crime prevention business for the Department of Justice’s Clearinghouse in the National Crime Prevention Council.  I mean it is—what we said back then is use common sense in terms of where you go, how you dressed, what your environment is.  It’s pretty much incumbent upon you to keep yourself from being victimized, so there was some responsibility for you know, not walking down the street as I did when I—I remember working for the National Crime Prevention Council, and I remember getting money from somebody, and I remember walking through Fell’s Point in Baltimore City, which had a crime problem, and I was counting money.  And then I stopped dead in the street going I’ve just did exactly what I’ve told thousands of people not to do.

Will Marling:  Well, yeah true.  You know we also focus on the fact that crime victimization—the blame rests with the perpetrator period—period.  I mean no woman gets blamed for how she dressed.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Will Marling:  No businessman gets blamed for how he’s dressed.

Len Sipes:  Agreed.

Will Marling:  There’s discretions.  Of course, there’s wisdom driving in appropriate places, but that’s part of the challenge with this.  In reality, consumers need to be educated on the front end to make a difference here.  Let me give you a very simple principle as we move into, you know, ever increasing, ever evolving, technological tools turned to weapons here and that is the concept of if it’s convenient for you, in terms of commerce, it’s probably as convenient for a thief.  For example, we’re getting into wireless transmissions, transactions with our phones.  Is your phone built for that?  Let me give you a simple analogy.  We used to have the Hummers that were military grade.  And then we came out with this commercial-grade Hummer.

Len Sipes:  Mm-hmm.

Will Marling:  Let me ask, is your phone a military-grade piece of equipment or commercial-grade piece of equipment?

Len Sipes:  You can put—I heard on a technical podcast the other day that you can put key logging software on a cell phone, which means—

Will Marling:  Your phone can be compromised like a computer, just as easily, and it with later effect.

Len Sipes:  Yes.  Your phone is a computer, and it’s fairly easily compromised.

Will Marling:  It’s more than a computer because it’s got a GPS in it that your computer doesn’t care to have.  It’s got a camera in it, which many computers do have.  It, of course, has microphones.  It has recording devices.  So, anybody who can compromise that phone has actually access to everything that phone can do.

Len Sipes:  And it shows your location if you activate the GPS device.

Will Marling:  Yeah, well, and they listen to your phone calls.  They can read every text.

Len Sipes:  So what is the lesson?  What is the lesson in all of this?  So if they can do that, is it not to use your cell phone for banking?

Will Marling:  Well, my recommendation is to think about whether the convenience really is that necessary.  If we think about banking, do—when you build a bank—you build a bank, you start with the vault, and then you build the building around it.  I’m not gonna convert my house into a bank, but basically that’s what we’re doing with cell phones.  So when you think, oh, this is a really cool option, the question is, do you really want to have that option on your phone for a lot of different reasons.  First of all, it could be intercepted.  The phone could be compromised, lost, and/or stolen, so there are mechanisms to help secure phones if it’s been stolen and this kind of thing, but the question is, do you really need to do all of those things on your phone?  Do you need a bank on your phone?  I don’t, and I won’t.  I refuse to.

Len Sipes:  No, no.  I—no, no I hear you loud and clear.  Or what about your home computer?

Will Marling:  Well, you know, again that’s at least internal and while, you know, there are house—there are robberies that involve just people taking the computer cause they know it’s gold—it’s, you know, the value in it, at least you can secure your computer, and people do transactions, but those can be done safely, once again, but your phone is mobile.  And it’s connected to you, and it is out there and I just have serious concerns personally about where this can go.  Again, a lot of that could be forwarded simply by our appropriate aware use of the tools that we have.

Len Sipes:  And also a good long complicated passcode to get into your own computer.  Not the simple things that we use on a day-to-day basis.

Will Marling:  Well, yeah and the same thing with our phone.  Anything that gives you an opportunity for a passcode, the deal is use it ‘cause there’s a reason that passcode was put there, as the option was there.  People find it inconvenient to type in their passcodes on their phone, but you know, do it.  It’s a nominal inconvenience, one again, for an extra level, an extra layer of security.

Len Sipes:  Most people don’t use the passcode for the phone.  Most people don’t even know they have a passode for the phone.

Will Marling:  Yeah, it’s too bad too because again, you’re just a low-hanging fruit.  You know that phrase.  And we just tell people constantly well, we know this is out there, and you can’t control what other people do, like Denise said, with our information, but let’s control what we ourselves do with it and let’s raise our fruit.  At least raise it up a hair.

Len Sipes:  Denise, we only have four minutes left in the program, and every time I do this program I just want to keep going and going and going because we never do cover all the ground that we said that we were going to cover.  All right, so give me—so we did say last time that in terms of places to contact, it would be National Organization for Victim Assistance at, your own website,, the Federal Trade Commission,, for additional information and also, ladies and gentlemen, the FBI puts out a lot of information on fraud, and you should feel free to contact and look at, especially, their computer crime related sections.  They have a lot of good consumer tips.  Anything else in terms of sources of information?

Denise Richardson:  Well, definitely.  There’s a Federal Trade Commission identity theft hotline, especially for, you know, people who want to just make a call and report any type of scam, and you can call 1-877-438—

Len Sipes:  877-438—

Denise Richardson:  4338.

Len Sipes:  4338.

Denise Richardson:  Exactly, and you know I just want to back Will up on what he just said as far as definitely, you know, control what happens in your life by taking care of what you can do.  It’s just like I don’t want to scare anybody, I just want to raise awareness and—

Len Sipes:  Oh, scare us.  We have to be scared.  We have to.

Denise Richardson:  We can’t stop driving on highways.  We’re—an accident is just around the corner for each of us, but it’s not gonna stop us from getting in our vehicles, and that’s what we need to realize.  We can enjoy these phones.  We can enjoy our computers.  We can—not stop us, but just like when you get a new car.  What you do?  You put your seatbelt on, you know.  That’s what you need to do if you look at it that way.  Contact security experts to figure out if your computer and your access points are safe—same with cell phones.  And spend a little time, I would say, on the web looking at and being up to date on these latest types of scams that we barely touched the surface of today, but at least it helps to have that awareness.

Len Sipes:  Well, don’t react to anything.  Contact the source independently through a number on the computer or through the Yellow Pages, even your local police department now-a-days, and it sounds like it’s a matter of passcodes and the use of the passcodes and it sounds like it’s a matter of checking up your bank statements and your credit card statements.  It sounds like those are the three principal things that came out of this quick conversation today.

Denise Richardson:  Those are great starting points, absolutely.

Len Sipes:  But for additional information contact, or National Organization for Victim Assistance, or I’m gonna give out that number again for the Federal Trade Commission, 1-877-438-4338, 1-877-438-4338—anything real quick Denise, Will?

Denise Richardson:  Talk to your kids.  Talk to your kids who are on all these social-networking sites, Facebook, and let them—and talk to your—you know, your family, seniors you know.  I say spread awareness.  Let them know what type of risks that are out there, so they are less likely to fall for these telephone scams or door-to-door.

Len Sipes:  Okay, got it.  Denise you’ve got the final word.  Ladies and gentlemen, this is DC Public Safety.  We’ve dealt with the issue of identity theft and scams today.  Will Marling, Executive Director of the National Organization for Victim Assistance,, Denise Richardson, consumer advocate and ID theft education specialist,  Ladies and gentlemen, we appreciate all the interaction that you provide us in terms of e-mails and phone calls, and guidance in terms of what you like and what you don’t like and, especially, in terms of new programs, and I want everybody to have themselves a very, very pleasant day.

[Audio Ends]


Identity Theft-NOVA-DC Public Safety

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[Audio Begins]

Len Sipes:  From the nation’s capital, this is DC Public Safety.  I’m your host, Leonard Sipes. Today’s program is about identity theft, and back at our microphones, Will Marling, the Executive Director of the National Organization for Victim Assistance,  Will’s been at our microphones before, and it’s always a pleasure to have him back. With Will today is Denise Richardson.  She is a consumer advocate, ID theft and education specialist, and, again, that’s going to be the meaning of the show. To Will and to Denise, welcome to DC Public Safety.

Will Marling:  Hey, thanks, Len.

Denise Richardson:  Yes, thank you for having us.

Len Sipes:  Now, Denise bear with me for a second.  Will and I were talking before the show about a couple things.  Number one, Victim’s Rights Week is coming up in April, and I certainly do want to mention that.  Also, Will, the National Organization for Victim’s Assistant that has been around since 1975.  You now have been given the task of certifying all victims’ advocates within the Department of Defense, correct?

Will Marling:  That’s right.  Yeah, just a recent decision by the Department of Defense is for us to become the secretariat to certify their victim advocate.  So we’re extremely honored, I have to say.

Len Sipes:  That is wonderful.  That is wonderful and that’s a huge undertaking.

Will Marling:  Well, it is.  It’s an important one.  It’s a demonstration of the military’s commitment to victim assistance, and it’s also their recognition of I think the important work that this organization has done historically as well as today.

Len Sipes:  Now you guys have been certifying victim’s rights specialist for quite some time.

Will Marling:  We have.  The National Organization for Victim Assistance is the secretariat for the National Advocate Credentialing Program.  It started in 2003.  So that’s a – it’s similar – it’s credentialing certification.  It’s all kind of — they look very similar but we provide a credential.  We’re the secretariat for that National Allied Professional Credential, and of course we’re honored to be part of that as well.

Len Sipes:  Oh, I think it’s wonderful. I think it’s an immense undertaking.  But I can’t say that this is immense and it’s not that I’m not excited about that but the Federal Constitutional Victim’s Rights Amendment is back on the radar screen, and I find that to be wonderful.  I mean one of the things that the public needs to know is that there are a lot of State Constitutional Amendments for victim’s rights.  36?  Correct?

Will Marling:  33 I think technically.

Len Sipes:  33.

Will Marling:  Three fifths of our nation’s states, that’s right, have it in their constitution.

Len Sipes:  Now, but we tried a federal constitutional amendment, victims’ rights amendment before but it lost just by a couple votes, right?

Will Marling:  Well, yeah, the attempt was to start with the Senate, and it was just two votes shy of cloister in the Senate, and of course that stopped it.  But we think the momentum, the timing, there’s so many things that have come together today, right now, for a victims’ rights amendment, you know, a 28th amendment to the United States Constitution to affirm victim’s rights.  And we’re — to be honest, we think it serves the nation to do this.

Len Sipes:  Well, it’s something certainly the hope for it is certainly something to pray for because you know the fact of victims within the criminal justice system – you know, I’ve been around in the system for 42 years.  We haven’t done the best of jobs in terms of taking care of victims.

Will Marling: Well, yeah, that’s right. I mean, I many times say the system is designed to get the results that it gets.  People just don’t realize that many times it works the way it’s actually designed.  So when you think about redesigning it, that’s one dimension.  Sometimes it truly doesn’t function meaningfully.  And at the end of the day, who’s the biggest stakeholder in this?  It really is the victims.  There are others impacted including communities.  But certainly the victims need to have that voice, and we believe a constitutional amendment in the United States Constitution would provide that social grounding as well as the legal framework for affirming socially the needs of crime victims and the consistent service that they deserve at every level.

Len Sipes:  You know I’ve talked to a variety of people who have been in the criminal justice system who victim’s advocacy was something that they were partial to.  They certainly were not against it.  But it was not first on their radar screen until they or a family member became a victim of crime.  When they walked through the experience directly as a victim or being very close to somebody who was a victim of crime, their attitudes changed remarkably.

Will Marling:  Absolutely.  I mean, it’s the doctor becoming the patient.

Len Sipes:  Yes, that’s exactly right.  That’s exactly right.  All right, but the program today is about undoubtedly theft. It’s one of the things that always is on my mind.  It is always on the mind of people throughout the country.  And I do want to reintroduce Denise Richardson.  She’s a long time consumer advocate and author of “Give Me Back My Credit!”  The victim of identity theft herself, Richardson set out to research the effects of this kind of theft and became a certified identity theft management specialist and trained and certified by the National Institute of Fraud and Risk Management.  Denise, this concept of identity theft, who within this country does identity theft not touch?  You can talk about burglary.  You can talk about sexual assault.  You can talk about violence.  You can talk about theft.  And that affects individual pieces of the population.  Identity theft, that issue belongs to everybody in the country.

Denise Richardson:  It belongs to everyone in our country, and it effects everyone in the world, because, unfortunately, as victims of this crime in this country, a lot of it can come from outside the country, and it makes it really tough on law enforcement to be able to even have the resources or ability to hold them accountable, to stop it.  So it allows the crime to just explode and grow in all sorts of ways.  From across the country, in the country and it hits everyone.  And one thing I’d like to say is congrats, Will, on all of your efforts because NOVA is one of the organizations that stepped out to realize that identity theft is a traumatic event.  And it can leave scars, whether they’re visible scars or not, and those scars can serve as a reminder of the pain that can last a lifetime.  If somebody has your social security number and is able to commit crimes and do other things in your name, it can literally take a lifetime to get through.  So for NOVA to come out and say, yes, this is a traumatic – can be a traumatic crime and there are victims, I just applaud your efforts in doing this.

Len Sipes: is the Website for Denise Richardson.  Denise, now, the people listening to this, they are members of the criminal justice system, members of the public.  What’s the one thing that we need to know straight from the very beginning of the program?  What do we need to understand about identity theft that we don’t understand about it now?

Denise Richardson:  One of the frustrating points that I see over and over when I hear from other victims of this crime is that they didn’t know.  They didn’t know it could be this bad.  They didn’t know this could happen to them.  They didn’t know – they had credit monitoring.  So they thought just by monitoring their credit reports they would have known.  But you wouldn’t know if someone’s hijacked your tax return, if somebody is committing violent crimes in your name.  You wouldn’t know this.  So, to me, the number one thing is more education on today’s identity theft trends and the types of risks and impact it can have, because often I see it downplayed in the media that, oh, if a stats gone down, if there’s a statistic that’s gone down in one area, you would never – if you look at it this way, you would never say to yourself, “Crime’s gone down in our neighborhood, so I think I’ll leave my doors unlocked now.”  And that’s the type of message I think continues to come across because that’s what I hear from the consumers who turn victims and say, “Why didn’t I know about this? I always heard it wasn’t a big thing and the credit card companies would just take care of it for you.”  But there’s the problem.  Not all the crimes that are committed today are credit related.  Yet people are still equating the crime with just America’s credit card and the banks will take care of it for you, so I would say education.

Len Sipes:  When we’re talking about identity theft across the board, we’re not just talking about our credit cards.  We’re not just talking about our social security number.  We’re talking about every little piece of paper that is attached to us.  And I had somebody the other day, a pretty prominent person, came to me and said, “Oh, my God, my name and my – where I live and everything else is available on a Website.  How could that possibly be?”  And I said, “Well, they pull from public records.  Have you bought a house?”  He says yes.  Well, all that information in terms of who you are and where you live is a matter of public information.  That’s startling to a lot of people.  But so there’s – number one there’s a lot of publicly available information on you out there.  We participate in Facebook.  We participate in Google Plus.  We set up a Google profile.  There are public records that apply to us.  So from the very beginning people need to understand that a lot of information is publicly available about you off the internet, and thieves can go from there and get the rest of it, correct?

Denise Richardson:  Absolutely.  And these identity thieves have gotten sophisticated, and if you remember, that’s their job, to sit on Facebook or Twitter or wherever they can get a wide range of information, hack into large databases, whatever it is.  And they can take small bits of information that you have on your profile and put it together with other information that’s public, say, your property records or whatever.  So they use that information.  They sell it to other scammers who use it and then pretend to strike up a conversation with you or know you or connect with you, whatever it may be.  A small little bit of information can turn into the key that unlocks the door to every other bit of information, and you wouldn’t even know it.

Len Sipes:  Okay, now that we sufficiently scared the dickens out of everybody listening to the program, because I think identity theft is huge.  I think it is beyond measurement.  Will, do we have a sense as to how many Americans are impacted by identity theft on a yearly basis?

Will Marling:  Well, we do.  I mean the Consumer Sentinel Network, which is the Federal Trade Commission’s report; they indicate that for 2011 there were 1.8 million complaints.  Now what’s important to recognize—

Len Sipes:  But not everybody complains.

Will Marling:  Well that’s what’s important to recognize.  I mean in terms of uniform crime reporting, identity theft is one of those crimes that doesn’t actually get reported.  You can sort of speculate and extrapolate.  We know it’s a lot worse than that.  I mean, come on, partly because you are obligated as a victim to report.  Secondly, sometimes law enforcement actually won’t take a report, and even if they do, they might not know what to do with it.  But the challenge becomes just even collecting that information. So we always encourage people, tell the FTC, file a police report if you can because at the very least we need to know what’s going on.  What’s important to know is that, with the latest report, credit card fraud is only 14 percent of what’s going on here.  Government documents benefits fraud is 27 percent.  So when people say, “Oh, identity theft is just about credit card, and I had that happen, and the bank said they’d take care of it.”  Well that’s another issue.  The banks not necessarily going to report for you that there was another identity theft even though that’s what occurred.

Len Sipes:  What do you mean by government documents?

Will Marling:  Government documents, anything pertaining to a government document, for instance, getting a driver’s license in the name of somebody or getting government services in the name of somebody, filing a tax return in the name of somebody to get a $2,000 refund.

Len Sipes:  Do they really do that?  They’ll file tax returns?

Will Marling:  Oh, absolutely.  I mean it’s a great business.  It’s a massive business.  You know we don’t know exactly.  It could be $20 billion worth of business but it’s hard to quantify completely, but absolutely.  If they get your name, social security number — you can go online right now and find people’s PDF’s of their tax returns.  And so commonly in training I ask people you know, “Raise you hands, how many of you have a PDF of your tax return that says “Tax Return 2010″?” And people raise their hand.  Well if you have access to somebody’s computer and you just do a basic search and say “tax return”, and it comes back, I have your tax return plus all your kids, their social security numbers, your spouse.  See, I have all of that right there.  And what’s a simple way to default that?  Well rename that PDF file.  It could be one, call it “Grape Juice Recipe” or actually take it off your computer.  Put it on a jump drive separate but file it up somewhere.  That’s the easiest way to thwart that potential compromise.

Len Sipes:  You now I keep – the amazing thing about when we have these conversations about identity theft I say to myself, I’ve been in this system for 42 years.  I have four college degrees, university degrees, and you constantly come up with stuff that I never would have thought of in terms of discussing this topic, because our taxes are filed on our computer, and we’ve done exactly what you’ve said.  Never crossed my mind to do this.  Never crossed my mind to name it grape juice recipe.

Will Marling:  Well you’re a smart guy, right?  It’s just an awareness issue.

Len Sipes:  It is.

Will Marling:  I mean that’s what this will confirm.

Len Sipes:  That’s what Denise just said.  So, Denise, what are the prevention tips we need to get out?  Is it okay to go to them that quickly?

Denise Richardson:  Well I would just to expand on what Will was saying, to give you an example of how you say you hadn’t heard of this or changing your name.  People do not know that their kids who are on Facebook and Twitter and they have their own iPhones and everything, these iPhones are nothing more than a little computer.

Len Sipes:  Oh, absolutely.

Denise Richardson:  They need to be protected as well.  And if your kids are using your home computer and they’re sharing music, your files could be open for sharing everything.  And that is a lot of how – you know you could be on a network in your neighborhood coffee shop and if your files are set to open and to share, anyone can get your information.  And as far as the income tax fraud, filing fraudulent tax returns, I live in South Florida, and the FDC report that just came out named South Florida as the number one metro area for this type of crime and Florid itself as the number one, again, several years.  And it stills strikes me that we – and the FDC came out and said two weeks after tax season opened identity theft crimes jumped 50 percent.  And the next day – I mean this was on our front page of the paper every day for a week.  In between that time I would read an article online by somebody out there saying, “Do we really have to worry about identity theft?  Is it just fear mongering?”  And in the meantime I’ve got all these emails from consumers saying, “What do I do?  I can’t get my tax return.  I plan to pay my property taxes with it.”  And so I’m seeing one thing that’s reality in my life every day but then when I read this kind of information I think it is harmful.  So I just think we need to send a better message that I think people can learn how to protect themselves better.  There’s no way to prevent it, but you can do things and talk to your kids or your neighbors, seniors—

Len Sipes: Okay, I have to break because we’re way past the half way mark and I have to reintroduce both of you, and then we’ll get back to the conversation.  Our guests today, ladies and gentlemen, Will Marling, the Executive Director of the National Organization for Victim Assistance, been around since 1975,  Our other guest is Denise Richardson.  She is a consumer advocate and a ID theft and education specialist.  Her Website is  Okay, so we’re way into the second half.  Either one of you.  So again, what we’ve done is scared me, scared all of our listeners.  I need to focus on what we can do.  Is there one place that we can go to get information about this?  Is there a one-stop service?  Where do people go to get the information they need?

Will Marling:  Well, yeah, let me jump in here.  There isn’t one place to go.   Of course, the internet offers us access to a lot of different resources quickly, but we try to principalize this so that people build an awareness, because however you instruct people about vulnerabilities, there will always be another tool that’s used by perpetrators, a new technology or whatever.  So we talk about raise the fruit.  Have you ever heard the phrase “go for the low hanging fruit.”?

Len Sipes:  Sure.

Will Marling:  We always talk about raise your fruit because make it even that much more difficult.  Can that stop it all?  No.  But why hand them your tax return on a PDF?  Why keep all your sensitive documents on your computer when you don’t access them regularly and you can put them on a jump drive and lock them up in a box?

Len Sipes:  Well, but there has to be a mantra in terms of all of us simply need to be aware that if our kids are file sharing on computers and the bad guys have access to our computers, there’s got to be a sense that every person that is not known to you, every email, every phone call, every snail mail communication where that person is not known to you, you immediately be suspicious of it.  I mean there’s got to be a grounding that we can start people off with.

Denise Richardson:  I agree.  And I think it is being informed and being alert, being aware that you shouldn’t’ ever give your information to anyone who is soliciting it.  And you shouldn’t blindly trust anyone who calls your house.  You shouldn’t trust your caller id anymore.  You know and I say these things and people will say it’s fear mongering, but there’s where the issue lies.  IT’s just simple education and trying to learn what you can do.  I don’t expect a consumer out there to know fishing, smishing, vishing, skimming, spoofing, cook jacking, tab napping, all the names that people who work in it every day understand, but I’m all for – what my passion is about is just raising awareness to what you can do, what should you do.  You should know about the latest scams.  You should know that you shouldn’t put too much information on your profile.  You should stop and think before you publish anything.  Ask yourself, “If I hit this publish button and it was going to be on the front page of the newspaper tomorrow, would I do the same thing?”  And you might stop and think about it.  You know we tend to hide behind the screen of the computer thinking everything is, oh, just our friends see it.  But that’s not the case.

Len Sipes:  You mean, just my friends read my Google Plus profile?

Denise Richardson:  Well, some people feel that just your friends are getting into your space, into your – you got your settings set one way.  But the settings can be changed.  They can be hacked.  People can use the information you put in your profile.  For example, you love lacrosse.  You do this.  You do that.  And they can pretend to have those same exact interests and send you a note and say, “Hey, what school did you go to?  This is what I did.”  And your guard is down.  We tend to trust, and criminals know that, so they take advantage of that trust.

Len Sipes:  Hey, you and I are both friends with Will Marling, so obviously I’ve got to be legitimate if you and I share a friendship with Will Marling.

Denise Richardson: I would say so, exactly.

Will Marling:  Sure.

Denise Richardson:  And that’s what they think because, oh, she was sent – I can not tell you how many times I get a call from even a friend who knows that I work in this industry.  Just a couple weeks ago somebody called and said, “I think I got myself in a world of trouble.”  I said, “What did you do?”  And he said, “I went to Yahoo! And it said that they were protecting me because I didn’t have – I had to re-put in my information, so I did, and then it asked for my social and I—”  And I said, “Please tell me that you didn’t give them all that.”  He did.  So he spent hours changing his PayPal account, this account, that account because then I found out in asking him a few questions, he has the same password.  So if a criminal gets a hold of – hacks into one of your passwords, and they’re easy to guess because we have – we use combinations that they figured out through our public information.  Just imagine if they hack that one password how much havoc they can create in five minutes time.  Check to see if you have a PayPal account, if you have an Amazon account, anything.

Len Sipes:  You’ve just made thousands of people very uncomfortable because the research says that’s exactly what we do.

Denise Richardson:  And I hope I made them uncomfortable.  That’s the point.  I want them to go out and say, “Oh, my gosh, I need to change my passwords.  I need to strengthen them.”  I did a speaking engagement at one point and I asked the people in the audience how many people use the name of their car or where they graduated or what year they graduated in their pass code.  And over 75 percent of the people raised their hand.  And I then explained why that wasn’t a good idea, and someone said to me, “Oh, my gosh, I do that with all of my passwords.  I’ll use my spouses name, my spouse’s birthday, my child’s name, my dogs name because it’s so easy to remember.”  Criminals are smart, and they know that.  So never – unfortunately you’ve got to come up with ways to have stronger, longer, unpenetratable passwords.

Len Sipes:  All right, but the one thing – to me this is the best suggestion of them all and that is is that anytime you get a communication from anybody that is part of your financial world, so you get an email from your bank saying your account’s been compromised.  You get a call, an email from your credit card company saying that your account has been compromised.  Immediately contact them independently on your own through a number and through a source that you know to be legitimate and then ask that person a question.  So never proceed with that initial contact.  Always go to the source.  I’ve always found that to be the most powerful of them all.  Am I right or wrong?

Denise Richardson:  You’re absolutely right.  You have to do that because a lot of these scams now will appear to come from Go Daddy or Amazon or your bank or even the U.S. Government.  And they’ll provide you with here’s the fraud department number to call.  We suspect something and people will panic and call that number.  What they don’t realize is they’re calling right into the thief.  So always – so never use a phone number, and your bank is not going to email you about something like that.

Len Sipes:  Yeah, but people don’t know.  I mean—

Denise Richardson:  Right.

Len Sipes:  –we got a phone call the other day about our credit card being misused.  And the point is that my wife had a conversation with the credit card company regarding that, and it was very legit and very straightforward, but my wife shouldn’t have done that.  My wife should have hung up and called the credit card company back.

Denise Richardson:  Well because sometimes what happens when they call you, they have quite a bit of information on you already, and that tends to make consumers think, oh, yes, that’s my bank because how would they know that?  But if it really is, your bank is going to understand if you say, “You know what, I’m concerned about identity theft.  So let me hang up and call you through the number that I have for you.  Do you have a particular extension?”  Something like that.  Or if it’s legit your bank should be able to tell you your password on that account, tell you everything you want to know, not the other way around where you have to confirm it with them.  I recently had the same thing happen to me with my bank calling about another credit card fraud.  But today the criminals are getting even more savvy with telephone calls, using the phone to hook you into falling for anyone of their many scams.  So if someone calls you, never give out information.

Len Sipes:  If you post on Facebook that you’re going to Florida and then the scammer calls you up and say you know there’s –evidently you’re in Florida and you have problems with your credit card, you immediately assume that this is legitimate.

Denise Richardson:  Exactly and I always tell people, oh my gosh, stop telling people where you are every minute of the day because people have been being robbed because they watch this.  If they have enough information and they know where you live and here’s a picture of me, I’m sitting a thousand miles away on a sunny beach.  We’re all here on vacation.  There was just a story in the news not too long ago where the teenage daughter didn’t know that she was giving out any information like that that she shouldn’t and said “Oh, we’re at the airport.  She text right at the airport, “We’re getting on the plane.”  Well her friend posted it and a friend of that friend, they tracked it back to because they did catch the people, robbed their house while they were gone.

Len Sipes:  Denise we have one minute left.  What point do we need to make that we haven’t made in one minute?

Denise Richardson:  That there are available – there’s information out there, and the best way that you can avoid becoming a crime victim is to be informed, look out for the risks and know the impact and have a plan of action.

Len Sipes:  Yeah, but there’s so much to know.

Denise Richardson:  There is.  I mean you can’t possibly learn it in one moment. You can go to the site.  They have a lot of information.  Will’s site, I’m sure, does.  My site at – on my site I have areas, categories for the current scams.  I try to keep that up-to-date, the types of risk, what to do if you’re a victim.  So there’s definitely information out there.  And here’s something.  If you’re ever in doubt, you get an email that you think might be a scam, type it in your browser.  Chances are people have already written about it and learned about it.

Len Sipes:  Well that’s a wonderful idea.  All right.  Our guests today and in terms of summarizing and it’s a lot to summarize, Will Marling, Executive Director, National Organization for Victim Assistance,  Also with our theft identity – identity theft expert, Denise Richardson.  She’s a consumer advocate and an ID theft and education specialist.  Her Website is  It seems as if the Federal Trade Commission just Google or your favorite search engine, Federal Trade Commission and look for consumer fraud or identity theft, and there’s information there.  What I heard today was about file sharing in terms of especially in terms of your kids and downloading music or file sharing, relabeling your computer files to be sure that if you’re hacked that the person won’t go and find your important documents.  Be careful with social media in terms of what public information you make public, change your passwords, go to the source if you get a call from somebody or contact from somebody. Don’t continue with that.  Just hang up and go to that source independently so you know that it is legitimate.  Ladies and gentlemen, this is DC Public Safety.  Have yourselves a very pleasant day.

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