Last week, the Federal Trade Commission announced that most consumers shouldn’t file complaints with police departments when their identity has been stolen.
By reducing the need for police reports, filing a report at IdentityTheft.gov helps you "get started on your recovery quickly" and "helps free local police to focus on public safety," said Seena Gressin, attorney for the FTC’s Division of Consumer and Business Education.
The problem with the FTC’s recommendation is that the agency, unlike attorneys general offices, doesn’t process complaints for individual consumers. It just keeps track, then perhaps if hundreds or thousands of complaints are received, the FTC will file a lawsuit against a company.
On the blog where Gressin recommendation appeared, lcarlson, a law enforcement fraud specialist, said in the Comment section that Gressin is wrong about not having to make an identity theft report with your local law enforcement agency. He said:
As a 23-year veteran working in identity theft and fraud cases, I can give at least two reasons to make a report.
- Local law enforcement keeps track of records showing the number of identity thefts that are in their communities. They look for trends, skimming schemes, and counterfeit credit card usage.
- Most banks require a report so they know that their cardholder isn’t the person using the card and not just making false claims so they don't have to pay the bill. When a police report is made, the investigation can then clear the cardholder of any wrongdoing and possibly identify suspects or scams working in the community.
lcarlson urged consumers to take the time to make the report with their local law enforcement agency. It needs that report for prosecution if law enforcement apprehends someone using your name or other personal identifiers.
To support the Trump administration’s new recommendation, Gressin said when you report identity theft using IdentityTheft.gov, you’ll answer some questions about what happened. IdentityTheft.gov then uses your information to create the tools you need to begin your recovery, including:
- A personal recovery plan.
- Pre-filled letters to send to merchants, banks, and others affected by the identity theft.
- An “Identity Theft Report,” which is your official statement about the crime.
She said consumers should contact the police to report identity theft if:
- You know the identity thief, or have other information that could help a police investigation.
- An identity thief used your name in a traffic stop or any encounter with police.
- A creditor, debt collector, or someone else affected by the identity theft insists that you produce a police report.