You can take steps to minimize your risk of becoming a victim of identity theft. That is the message of a nationwide education program launched today by the Federal Trade Commission:“AvoID Theft: Deter, Detect, Defend.”
The program coincides with issuance of an executive order signed by President Bush, creating an Identity Theft Task Force, chaired by Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales and co-chaired by FTC Chairman Deborah Platt Majoras. The Task Force will develop a strategic plan to enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of government efforts to deter, prevent, detect, investigate, and prosecute identity theft.
“Personal information is the new currency,” said Chairman Majoras. “Consumers should protect their personal information as carefully as they protect their cash.”
The FTC and the Justice Department will send “AvoID Theft: Deter, Detect, Defend” education kits to 4,500 victim advocates across the country. The U.S. Social Security Administration will involve its field offices. Other partners include the National Association of Realtors, the American College Personnel Association – College Student Educators International, the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators, the National Crime Prevention Council, the National Apartment Association, and America’s Community Bankers.
The FTC maintains the central federal database for ID theft complaints. With experts in ID theft, privacy, and data security, its Division of Privacy and Identity Protection helps criminal law enforcement detect and prosecute identity thieves, and provides victim assistance and consumer education. The agency also pursues law enforcement actions against companies that fail to provide reasonable security for sensitive customer data. Since 2001, the FTC has brought 13 such cases, and challenges organizations that make deceptive claims about privacy procedures and security.
Materials in the “AvoID Theft: Deter, Detect, Defend” education kit include a victim recovery guide, “Take Charge: Fighting Back Against Identity Theft. The kit also contains a training booklet, “Talking About Identity Theft: A How-To Guide,” and a 10-minute video on identity theft. All materials are available in English and in Spanish. Through a toll-free number (1-877-IDTHEFT) and Web site (http://www.consumer.gov/idtheft/), the FTC has distributed more than 22 million publications on identity theft.
The FTC works for the consumer to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices in the marketplace and to provide information to help consumers spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint in English or Spanish (bilingual counselors are available to take complaints), or to get free information on any of 150 consumer topics, call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357), or use the complaint form at http://www.ftc.gov/ftc/complaint.htm. The FTC enters Internet, telemarketing, identity theft, and other fraud-related complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to thousands of civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.
Claudia Bourne Farrell
Office of Public Affairs
Office of Public Affairs