Identity theft is a crime that can take years to recover from. One of the early problems for an identity theft victim has been the requirement to file a police report. Many police departments do not devote much effort to identity theft, so sometimes getting the police to actually create a report and provide you with a report number can difficult. If the actual criminal activity happened elsewhere, your local PD may refuse to help, and the police in the location where the crime was committed may be disinterested since you are not a local resident. But many lenders require a police report number before they will begin to help you close accounts and file reports with the credit bureaus, a classic Catch-22. And because identity thieves often ply their trade in different cities, states, and even countries, the multi-jurisdictional nature of these crimes makes arrest and prosecution unlikely.
On April 27 the Federal Trade Commission launched a new service for identity theft victims at IdentityTheft.gov. The most important part of this service is that it solves the requirement for reporting, without involving your local police. Much like the FBI’s cyber-crime reporting service at IC3.gov, this site also can work as an aggregation tool to identify the many victims of a single identity theft operative or ring. Eventually the FTC may acquire enough evidence to make their activities a Federal crime, identify and arrest these thieves and bring them to trial.
What happens when you report an identity theft to IdentityTheft.gov? After filling out an online questionnaire about what happened, the site creates several important documents for you, including:
- A personal recovery plan to guide you through what can be a difficult process.
- Personalized letters to send to banks, merchants, and the credit bureaus.
- An Identity Theft Report, an official statement about the crime that can be used in place of a police report.
It can still be important to report to your local police if:
- You know the identity of the thief, or have other important information that could help the case.
- If the ID thief used your identity in a traffic stop or other police encounter that may have resulted in a warrant being issued against your name.
- A lender, creditor, or debt collector insists on a police report.
- FTC blog report about IdentityTheft.gov
- US CERT – Preventing and Responding to ID Theft