Sex Offenders Hiding in Plain Sight

Aug 06, 2012

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A new study by Utica College estimates that nearly one in six convicted sex offenders is avoiding court-imposed or statutory restrictions by altering their digital identity.

While some sex offenders simply fail to keep their registration records current hoping to slip through the cracks in the system, much more worrisome are those who intentionally manipulate their names, birthdays, Social Security numbers, and other personal identifiers to live as they please and evade the consequences of their actions.

ID Analytics, a private firm that uses algorithms to identify fraud, “ran sex offender data through its massive database of credit-related events, and found evidence of rampant identity manipulation among the offenders.” The national average of sex offenders who manipulate their identities was found to be 16.2 percent, but Louisiana, Washington D.C., Nevada, Tennessee, and Delaware all had averages higher than 25 percent.

Tennessee and Nevada responded to the findings by arguing that manipulated personal information would be ineffective in dodging the system because criminals in those states are identified by fingerprints.

The chief tech officer for ID Analytics refuted these arguments, pointing out that fingerprint evaluation rarely happens. Identity manipulators may be discovered when trying to do something like become an elementary school teacher, but they remain undetected if they are just living under an alias at an unregistered location, perhaps closer to a school, daycare, or park than sex offender restrictions would allow. Sex offenders with altered personal information qualify for jobs and housing otherwise unavailable to them for child safety reasons.

In the digital world, a sex offender could use a false identity to contact your child. It's extremely important to monitor your child's interactions online so you know if they are being groomed or if someone just doesn't seem to be whom they say. Parents are likely to have a sharper eye than a kid if an online friend is saying or asking things that are not appropriate.

The entire sex offender registry program isn't broken, according to director of case analysis at the Center for Missing and Exploited Children, but be aware that like most things it is not perfect. People who would target your child do fall through the cracks sometimes. Just continue to be vigilant when it comes to protecting your children, online as well as off.

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