A New Resource Center to Help Respond to Identity Theft

Identity theft continues to be a significant economic drain and extremely frustrating personal experience. 46 States have data breach notification laws to assist individuals whose data may have been compromised and credit card companies are regularly battling this challenge.

On Sept. 7, 2001,  the Consumer Federation of America unveiled a new website, www.IDTheftInfo.org, which features CFA’s Best Practices for Identity Theft Services  and other resources for consumers and businesses.

“IDTheftInfo.org is an easy-to-use gateway for information about identity theft from Consumer Federation of America and other reputable sources,” said Susan Grant, CFA’s Director of Consumer Protection. Visitors to the site can take quizzes to test their ID theft savvy, learn how to protect themselves, and find information about what to do if they become ID theft victims. Advice for businesses about data security is also provided. The “Latest News” section of the website will keep people informed about identity theft-related issues and developments.

Still, it is important to keep identity theft concerns in context, particularly since other commercial preditors prey on consumer fears to promote unnecessary and expensive remedies. According to a  FTC Consumer Sentinel Network February 2010 report identity theft breaks down as follows:

Credit card fraud (17%) was the most common form of reported identity theft, followed by government documents/benefits fraud (16%), phone or utilities fraud (15%), and employment fraud (13%).  Other significant categories of identity theft reported by victims were bank fraud (10%) and loan fraud (4%).

The Consumer Federation of America has itself warned the public of these concerns. In its own report, it cautions “the claims that some identity theft services make are exaggerated or misleading, and it’s not always easy to tell from their Web sites and advertising exactly how these services work, how much they cost, or what protection or assistance they really offer.” Still, the additional resource can only help simply the process of getting help if identity theft occurs.

Of course, the first line of defense is good planning. Keep a good record of each credit card along with the PIN number, log-in and passwords in a safe, off-line location. Quickly contact the issuer of any credit card that has been compromised and if you use common log-ins, consider having all your other cards reissued before any intrusion spreads. By doing the same with banks and credit reporting agencies if the fraud is severe, you can reduce the impact and help stop the thefts.