FTC recruiting identity theft victims

In an effort to buttress its enforcement and better understand the scourge that is identity theft, the Federal Trade Commission said today its plans to conduct a wide-ranging study of victims of the crime.

The FTC is looking for people harmed by the crime and said the survey will examine the remedies available to victims under the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act of 2003 (FACT Act). Among other things, the FACT Act gave consumers the right to place fraud alerts on their credit files if they are, or suspect they may become, victims of identity theft; block information on their credit reports that resulted from identity theft; and obtain copies of their credit reports free of charge.

The survey proposal, which was posted in the Federal Register, is looking for information from identity theft victims who contacted the FTC between January 1 and May 30, 2008, and will inquire about their experiences when they contacted one or more credit reporting agencies and when they sought to use their FACT Act rights.

Comments filed in electronic form should be submitted by going here: (https://secure.commentworks.com/ftcfactasurvey). To ensure that the Commission considers an electronic comment, you must file it on the web-based form here: (https://secure.commentworks.com/ftcfactasurvey).

The FTC in February released the list of top consumer fraud complaints for 2007 and showed that for the seventh year in a row, identity theft is the number one problem and it is showing no signs of letting up. Of 813,899 total complaints received in 2007, 258,427, or 32%, were related to identity theft. Consumers reported fraud losses totaling more than $1.2 billion; the median monetary loss per person was $349, the report states. 

Over the past five years, 43 U.S. states have adopted data breach notification laws, but such legislation has not cut down on identity theft.  There doesn't seem to be any evidence that the laws actually reduce identity theft," said Sasha Romanosky, a Ph.D student at Carnegie Mellon who is part of the team that published a state-by-state analysis of data supplied by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC). In fact, there may be good reasons that explain why breach laws have not cut down on identity theft. Many consumers simply ignore breach notification letters. And Romanosky believes that security firms are still not doing enough to protect data themselves. "In so many of these cases, the breaches occur because of ridiculous security practices," he said in a recent IDG News Service story.  

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