The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) on January 28 announced that identity theft complaints to the agency surged 50% to nearly half a million in 2015 compared to 2014.
Chairwoman Edith Ramirez attributed the jump in part to increased numbers of income tax identity fraud and wage fraud complaints. She revealed the new statistics as part of a media presentation unveiling changes in FTC’s website covering the topic — identitytheft.gov. That advice website can now provide more personalized guidance to individuals who face identity theft.
The U.S. government has long urged reporting of all identity compromises be to the FTC, which shares the data through its Consumer Sentinel network. Over 2,000 local, state and federal agencies around the country can tap that network to support local prosecutions.
Ramirez said one benefit of the increased reporting is the opportunity to detect patterns of fraud more quickly but she expressed concern about the number of reports, too.
“Beyond the numbers, identity theft can be a difficult and challenging personal experience. It can take several months or several years to recover,” she said.
The FTC’s revamped website is designed to streamline the process by providing advice and useful forms. It is available in both English and Spanish and offers advice on 30 different types of identity theft. Identitytheft.gov will generate pre-filled letters victims can send to credit bureaus, debt collectors, the IRS and other institutions.
In an apparent acknowledgement to the challenges of keeping data safe anywhere, Ramirez added that the site will not require or store Social Security numbers or driver’s license information. Those details can be added by the victim after they print out documents.
Ramirez declined to discuss the cost of the advisory site’s overhaul but did indicate it was a major project. FTC hopes to expand the project further to work with credit reporting bureaus sometime in the future.