Digital Gov

FTC releases online tools to cope with identity theft

theft of SS card

The Federal Trade Commission on Jan. 28 unveiled its streamlined road to recovery for identity theft victims through "significant enhancements" to its IdentityTheft.gov website. 

The new features provide users a step-by-step checklist to easily file an identity theft complaint. After filing an initial complaint, the site will generate a "personalized guide to recovery" for users based on their specific needs.

The guide to recovery includes affidavits and pre-filled letters to simplify the process of alerting law enforcement, credit bureaus, debt collectors, the IRS and other agencies to expedite the reclamation of one's identity.

The site, also available in Spanish, is the FTC's response to President Obama's October 2014 executive order, and upgrades an earlier iteration of the site launched in May 2015.

The announcement was timed to coincide with Tax Identity Theft Awareness Week.

In 2015, the FTC received 490,000 consumer complaints about identity theft -- a 47 percent increase from 2014, and the Department of Justice estimates that 17.6 million Americans had their identities stolen in 2014, according to FTC data.

"Data security is one of most significant challenges we face moving forward," said chairwoman Edith Ramirez in a conference call. "Beyond the numbers, identity theft can be a difficult and challenging personal experience that can take months or even years to overcome."

To protect user information, the FTC says it only collects the information necessary to process a claim. "We designed the upgrade and functionality with security in mind," said Ramirez. "We're trying to minimize the amount of sensitive personal information we request," she said, noting that the site doesn't collect Social Security or driver's license numbers."

According to Ramirez, the site upgrades will "absolutely" help law enforcement's ability to address identity theft crimes, and future collaboration with government agencies and credit bureaus will streamline the user's experience even further.

The FTC declined to share the cost of the project at this time.

About the Author

Chase Gunter is a staff writer covering civilian agencies, workforce issues, health IT, open data and innovation.

Prior to joining FCW, Gunter reported for the C-Ville Weekly in Charlottesville, Va., and served as a college sports beat writer for the South Boston (Va.) News and Record. He started at FCW as an editorial fellow before joining the team full-time as a reporter.

Gunter is a graduate of the University of Virginia, where his emphases were English, history and media studies.

Click here for previous articles by Gunter, or connect with him on Twitter: @WChaseGunter

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