It's not a question of if but when you will become a victim of identity theft, officials warn as they offer consumers more help to ease the pain.
Identity theft victims can fight back with new tools from the Federal Trade Commission’s one-stop IdentityTheft.gov website, agency officials say.
The upgraded website, integrated with the FTC’s consumer complaint system, allows a victim to rapidly file an identity theft complaint and get a personalized recovery guide streamlining the many steps involved, officials say. Easy-to-use tools help victims create the documents they need to alert police, credit bureaus, the IRS and others.
“The FTC’s new IdentityTheft.gov website empowers consumers to fight back faster and more effectively against identity thieves,” FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez said.
In 2015, the FTC said, the agency received over 490,000 consumer complaints about identity theft, a 47 percent increase over the previous year. The Department of Justice estimates that 17.6 million Americans were victims of identity theft in 2014.
“As most Americans know, we live in an age when it’s not a matter of if but when you will become a victim of identity theft,” Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan said. “The FTC’s website is a great place for consumers to go for practical and personalized help to recover from the financial mess created by identity theft.”
The updated website walks consumers through a simplified step-by-step checklist tailored to the specific type of identity thefts they are facing.
The FTC’s Identity Theft website offers easy-to-use tools to help victims. FTC Photo
When a consumer uses IdentityTheft.gov, the site will automatically generate affidavits and pre-fill letters and forms to be sent to credit bureaus, businesses, police, debt collectors and the IRS, officials said. If a consumer’s recovery runs into obstacles, the site will suggest alternative approaches. Once a consumer completes an initial report on the site, he or she will receive follow-up emails and can return to a personalized online plan to continue the recovery process.
President Barack Obama in October 2014 directed federal agencies to create a consolidated site with essential information for consumers. An initial version was launched in May 2015 with checklists for consumers based on certain types of identity theft. The FTC also provides materials on its website for consumers, businesses and law enforcement on how to prevent identity theft and remain vigilant for other scams.
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