Victim Assistance: Lessons From the Field
Creating Self-Help Materials for Victims
Once privacy policies are in place, the next major task is to develop self-help materials for victims. The rationale for this is that many if not most victims could repair their credit and recover money lost to identity theft if they had step-by-step instructions.
The Identity Theft Resource Center provides consumer education and individual casework and disseminates research through its Web site, call center, and publications. It also provides a wealth of fact sheets and other self-help publications that victims can download on such subjects as what victims need to know, victims’ rights under the law, assessing the damage, and terminology victims need to know. Through its emphasis on self-advocacy, the center empowers victims to take charge of their own cases. Its Web site houses a broad array of resources for victims, service providers, and the public on such topics as scam alerts, the Data Breach List, Lost/Stolen Wallets, Medical Identity Theft, Beginning Steps for Victims of Financial Identity Theft, Victim Impact Studies (statistics), and Identity Theft in the Workplace.
One grantee developed a simple checklist that could be used to track a victim’s progress and keep track of his or her time and expenses. VICARS obtained permission to use relevant materials from the FTC and ITRC to develop its own checklist or Action Plan (PDF 181 kb), which can be modified for other organizations. The Action Plan was also translated into Spanish. VICARS found it helpful to package its materials in two-pocket folders and have victims keep originals in one pocket and copies in the other with the Action Plan affixed in the center.
Several of the grantees found that clients were often able to assist themselves with only limited direction from grantee staff members by making use of toolkits and other materials created on their Web sites. See, in particular, the Identity Theft Resource Center’s extensive index of fact sheets for victims. Staff could also track client progress through regular followup phone contacts.
AVA Services to Victims
Over the past 20 years, Atlanta Victim Assistance has increased its direct services to victims of crime by providing first responder services; keeping victims informed of the status of their cases; providing crisis intervention and emotional support; offering support groups for the survivors of victims of homicide and domestic violence; and providing education on the criminal justice process to victims.
AVA’s speakers’ bureau fulfills requests for its advocates and volunteers to attend neighborhood and community meetings, schools, businesses, and violence prevention fairs. AVA provides the following services to help victims have smoother experiences:
- Information about the status of court cases.
- Notice of court proceedings, including charges.
- Information about criminal justice proceedings.
- Companionship during court appearances and to provide emotional support.
- Victim referrals to social services agencies.
- Intervention with employers to explain time missing from work due to court appearances.
- Assistance if the victim is being intimidated or harassed about serving as a court witness.
- Aid in recovery of stolen property being held as evidence.
AVA’s Project SAFE includes a triage and tracking center that assesses calls to its helpline. Its advocate assists victims of identity theft and bank fraud by helping to file complaints with the Federal Trade Commission and the Atlanta Police Department. The advocate also helps victims correct their credit reports and provides them with referrals to the appropriate agencies.