FTC Launches Free Identity Theft Tool

Photo (cc) by Racchio

Identity theft was the top complaint received by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission in 2014 — and every other year going back 15 years.

Now the federal agency tasked with protecting consumers has launched a new website, IdentityTheft.gov, to help victims of identity theft and data breaches.

The website is designed to make it easier for victims to report and recover from these incidents.

An interactive checklist, for example, walks people through the recovery process. These steps are categorized as “What To Do Right Away,” “What To Do Next” or “Other Steps.” The goal is to help people understand which steps should be taken when.

Other tools for victims include sample letters and specialized tips for specific forms of identity theft, including tax-related and medical identity theft.

For people who are unsure if they’ve been a victim of identity theft or simply want to educate themselves about the crime, IdentityTheft.gov includes a list of warning signs.

The website advises people whose sensitive information has been exposed — such as through a data breach — about what to do based on the type of information that was exposed.

As we recently reported in “Data Breeches Nearly Double: Here’s How To Stay Safe,” one-quarter of Americans have fallen victim to data breaches in the past year alone.

Among those victims, 20 percent reported that their credit score was negatively impacted.

Ernie Almonte, chair of the AICPA’s National CPA Financial Literacy Commission, said in a press release:

The increase in data breaches affecting personal information has given consumers significant cause to be cautious about their activities, both online and off… Data breaches have the potential to seriously affect consumer finances and wreak havoc on their credit scores.

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