A frightening number of the nation's registered sex offenders hide, change or attempt to alter their identities to avoid parole conditions aimed at keeping them from striking again, according to preliminary findings of a new study.

Roughly 92,000 of the 569,325 registered sex offenders - approximately 16 percent - are digital absconders who use techniques developed by identity thieves to alter their names, birthdays, Social Security numbers and other personal information, according to the study conducted by Utica College's Center for Identity Management and Information Protection. This allows them to evade authorities while seemingly meeting court-imposed requirements or other restrictions. The tweaked identities allow them to apply for jobs, tap social benefits, hide their past from neighbors and possibly prey on more victims - all while appearing to be on the radar of those charged with tracking them.

"We have to dig deeper to find out why this is happening," said Don Rebovich, the criminal justice professor at Utica College who directed the study. "It's not to be critical of any of the tracking agencies in the states because they are doing great jobs, but there will be some offenders who slip through the cracks if they change their identities - and it's not that hard."

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