statewide.

Ten or 12 pieces of identification are collected about the victim, including eye color, height and weight, and stored in the database, said Hansberger.

The Attorney General's Office can view the information immediately, confirm it and send a request for a Passport card to Viisage, a specialist in identity verification solutions, which then produces the photo ID card. The card is activated when the victim calls an activation number from home, similar to the process used to activate credit cards.

"When the victim's credit is questioned, when the victim is questioned by law enforcement, or whenever the victim needs to demonstrate he's had his identity stolen, the passport card can demonstrate that," Bowman said. "If [the victim is] showing the information to another law enforcement officer, for example, law enforcement has the ability to go pull the information up from the database, and has the fingerprint and the signature there to help verify that the person is who they say they are."

The application also prevents duplicate entries of the victim's information -- if someone attempts to use the victim's driver's license number, for example, police will be alerted.

National Model

The DOJ will review the program in June and conduct a feasibility study to determine its potential to be used nationally, the NNA's Hansberger said.

"This passport is designed to provide the Attorney General a better method of verifying the victim and proving to the credit bureau or bank that, yes, we have this police report, you can trust that the victim has sufficiently reported this crime, and we are investigating or have resolved the crime," he said. "It's kind of interesting. I guess the passport can take different forms in different states, so they kind of left it up to the states,"

Most states went with a paper-based system. The biometric signature used in the Passport system is unique in that it captures a three-dimensional signature -- the signature is identified by time, pressure and speed of the person writing it.

"The whole premise is that these can be used for forensic analysis at any time," Hansberger said. "In the notary world, what typically happens is when a transaction is questioned, a judge immediately subpoenas the journal and has the signer's signature. Then the signer is asked to sign again, and the two signatures are compared physically."

Now the two are compared electronically.

So far around 50 identity theft victims have used the system, and Hansberger said what's pleasing so far is that police, which really had no means to deal with the problem before, can now help victims and get a leg up on the investigation.

"We still have a lot of work to do," he said. "We need to work on getting the full cooperation of all the credit bureaus. They offer recovery services when your identity is stolen and your credit is abused. We're in the process of trying to coordinate with all of them."

Jim McKay, Justice and Public Safety Editor  |  Justice and Public Safety Editor