A recent study conducted by Utica College, and funded by the U.S. Justice Department, found that about 92,000 of 570,000 registered sex offenders, or one in six, in the U.S. are assuming fake identities, changing their names, birth dates, and even Social Security numbers.
According to early data from the study, these people are using the same techniques used by identity thieves to avoid the requirements of the sex offender registry.
Utica College’s Center for Identity Management and Information Protection, which conducted the study, found that offenders with new identities were able to “apply for jobs, tap social benefits, hide their past from neighbors and possibly prey on more victims.”
Don Rebovich, the Utica criminal justice professor who headed the study, told reporters, “We have to dig deeper to find out why this is happening.” He said that the offenders “hide in plain sight” from the national sex offender registry and the authorities in charge of tracking them.
A case in point is that of Frank Kuni, a Tier 2 sex offender who successfully changed his name and was hired to work for the U.S. Census, going door to door in New Jersey. One mother who answered the door recognized him from an online registry and blew the whistle, which landed him in jail for three years.
According to the researchers, the offenders still, by and large, check in with their parole officers. They simply use the altered identities for everything else they do. Rebovich said that in Louisiana, Nevada, and Tennessee, over 25 percent of registered sex offenders have altered their identities. The high is 64.5 percent in Louisiana; the low is 7.1 percent in Wisconsin.
The full study is due to be released in the fall of 2012.