The Department of Justice estimates that in 2015, 17.6 million Americans were identity theft victims. Today, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced the relaunch of its IdentityTheft.gov website, which allows victims of identity theft to create a free, personalized identity theft recovery plan.
In a conference call about the new site, FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez said that her agency received over 490,000 identity theft complaints in 2015, a 47 percent increase from 2014. Almost 222,000 of those were related to tax or wage identity theft, making it the largest and fastest growing form of identity theft, according to Ramirez.
When you go to the new IdentityTheft.gov, you will be asked to choose the option that describes your situation best, whether a data breach exposed your information, someone filed a tax return using your information or someone opened new accounts in your name. The next steps narrow down your specific situation with more options, allowing you to input only a limited amount of personal information, excluding social security numbers and drivers licenses. Finally, the site will use the information to create affidavits, a recovery plan and letters to be sent to debt collectors, credit bureaus, businesses, police and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
During the conference call, Chairwoman Ramirez emphasized the security of the site. The FTC limited the amount of personal information that needs to be collected. If needed, consumers can fill in personal information like social security numbers and driver’s license information after printing the necessary documents. She also said that the site is secured and will require users to create accounts that are only accessible after a two-factor authentication process.
IdentityTheft.gov was originally created after President Barack Obama’s October 2014 executive order that federal agencies create a singular site with all the information consumers need to report and recover from identity theft. The previous iteration debuted in May 2015 with checklists of steps for consumers to follow, so the updated version of the site makes the process simpler and more automated.
The FTC complaint generated by the site will also go into an already available database that over 2,000 federal, state and local law enforcement agencies are able to access. This helps those agencies better understand and search for patterns of identity theft.
It’s never too early to take steps to prevent identity theft in the first place, and the FTC provides a lot of other free resources at ftc.gov/identitytheft. Check out Techlicious for more information on stopping identity theft and figuring out if your accounts have been hacked, as well.
[Image via FTC]