The Federal Trade Commission recently unveiled significant enhancements to its online portal designed to help victims recover from identity theft. Victims can now file a complaint with the FTC at identitytheft.gov and get a free, personalized identity theft recovery plan. The upgraded site comes in response to an October 2014 executive order issued by President Obama directing federal agencies to create a consolidated site with essential information for consumers. The initial version launched in May 2015 with checklists for consumers based on certain types of identity theft.
In announcing the improvements, FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez commented that “[m]illions of Americans have been victims of identity theft, and until now, there has not been a single site where they can quickly file an official complaint and then get real, personalized help. The FTC’s new IdentityTheft.gov website empowers consumers to fight back faster and more effectively against identity thieves.” The FTC revealed the changes as part of Tax Identity Theft Awareness Week, a national campaign to raise awareness about theft involving tax refunds.
Mary Gavin, Chief of Police for Falls Church, Virginia and an Executive Committee member of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, remarked that the new online portal “will be a powerful tool to help police assist victims, and the information victims report to the FTC can help law enforcers build cases.”
In 2015, the FTC received over 490,000 identity theft consumer complaints – up 47% from 2014. Additionally, the Department of Justice estimates that, in 2014, 17.6 million Americans were the victims of identity theft.
The updated website provides a range of new features, including a step-by-step checklist tailored to the specific type of identity theft the consumer faces, such as child identity theft or tax-related identity theft, and customized advice to meet individual needs. The website automatically generates affidavits and pre-fill letters and forms to send to credit bureaus, businesses, police, debt collectors, and the IRS following the consumer’s initiation of a response plan. The site will also suggest alternative approaches. Consumers completing their initial report will receive follow-up emails and can return to their personalized plan for further information and assistance.
The site is available in Spanish at RobodeIdentidad.gov. Spanish-speaking consumers can view the automatically generated letters and other documents in Spanish and then print them in English for sending to the relevant recipients.
The FTC produced a short video explaining how the new system works, and provides extensive materials for consumers, businesses and law enforcement with information on how to prevent identity theft and remain vigilant for other scams.