According to a new report issued by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) incidents of identity theft increased significantly in 2015. The data released by the FTC indicates that the agency received more than 490,000 consumer complaints about identity theft in 2015. These numbers represent a 47 percent increase from the number of complaints received in 2014. The Department of Justice estimates that in total, 17.6 million Americans were victims of identity theft in 2014.
Identity theft involves the unauthorized or illegal use of key elements of another individual’s personal information (social security numbers, driver’s license numbers, birthdates, bank statements, etc.) and assuming that individual’s identity for personal gain. The information can then be used to obtain credit, merchandise and services in the name of the victim, or to provide the perpetrator with false credentials. Identity theft is the most popular—and the most profitable—form of consumer fraud. Armed with this key personal information, a dishonest individual can open a bank account, obtain credit cards, apply for a loan, and remove funds from various financial accounts for financial gain.
In response to the rising epidemic, the FTC announced that it has launched a new site designed to be a resource for victims of identity theft. The upgraded IdentityTheft.gov website allows consumers to rapidly file a complaint with the FTC and then get a personalized guide to recovery that helps streamline many of the steps involved. The upgraded site is the FTC’s answer to an executive order issued by President Obama in directing federal agencies to create a consolidated site with essential information for consumers based on certain types of identity theft.
When a consumer initiates a response plan, 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. Should a consumer’s recovery run into issues, the site will suggest alternative approaches. Once a consumer completes their initial report on the site, they will receive follow up e-mails and can return to their personalized plan online to continue the recovery process.
“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.” said Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan. 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.”
Retail data breaches are by no means the only source of identity theft incidents, but they have been a contributing factor. The new FTC site provides a strong resource for retail consumers and all potential victims of identity theft, but the information showing the substantial increase in identity theft incidents also serves as an important reminder of the need for retail organizations to make the investment in data security efforts.
Click the image below for a tutorial on how to use the new reporting system.