ID THEFT VICTIMS’ EXPERIENCE SUBJECT OF FTC STUDY
The Federal Trade Commission issued a staff report summarizing the results of a survey of identity theft victims who were asked to describe their experiences dealing with consumer reporting agencies and, more generally, exercising their rights under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) as amended by the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act (FACTA), to recover from identity theft. The survey showed that most of the respondents were generally satisfied with their experiences, but the report also noted areas for improvement.
Congress has established several rights under the FACTA to help actual or potential identity theft victims protect themselves from, and recover from, identity theft. These rights enable victims to place fraud alerts on their credit report with the consumer reporting agencies, request a free credit report from the three national consumer reporting agencies when placing a fraud alert, block fraudulent information from appearing in their credit report, and receive a notice of these and other rights from the consumer reporting agencies.
According to the report, Using FACTA Remedies: An FTC Staff Report on a Survey of Experience of Identity Theft Victims, the survey showed:
- Sixty-eight percent of the survey respondents were somewhat or very satisfied with their overall experiences with the consumer reporting agencies, but many consumers said it was difficult to reach a live person.
- Less than half of the respondents were aware of most of their rights under FACTA before they contacted the consumer reporting agencies.
- Some respondents complained about feeling pressured to buy additional identity theft monitoring products when they called the consumer reporting agencies.
The report concluded that:
- The consumer reporting agencies may need to make it easier for consumers to reach a live person;
- The FTC and other enforcement agencies should do more to educate the public about their rights under FACTA; and
- The FTC and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau should use their respective authorities to address the consumer reporting agencies’ practices related to selling identity theft monitoring products or services when they are contacted by identity theft victims.
Consumer education continues to be an important priority for the FTC, which has an extensive program to provide consumers with the knowledge and tools needed to protect themselves from identity theft and to deal with its consequences. For example, the FTC receives thousands of contacts each week through its toll-free hotline and dedicated website. Callers to the hotline receive counseling from trained personnel on steps they can take to prevent or recover from the crime. The FTC also provides a variety of educational materials to help consumers deter, detect, and defend against identity theft. For example, the FTC’s identity theft victim recovery guide, Take Charge: Fighting Back Against Identity Theft, explains the immediate steps victims should take to address the crime, how to obtain a credit report and correct fraudulent information in credit reports, how to file a police report, and how to protect personal information.
Based on a recommendation by the President’s Identity Theft Task Force in 2007, the FTC conducted the survey of consumers who had called the FTC’s identity theft hotline (1-877-ID-THEFT). The survey was designed to determine these consumers’ general satisfaction with their rights and to examine the types of problems they encountered.
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