FEATURED GOVERNMENT INNOVATOR
THE FEDERAL TRADE COMMISSION’S IDENTITYTHEFT.GOV
Having your identity stolen is headache enough. But after the shock of discovering someone has gotten a tax refund using your Social Security number or opened credit cards in your name and ordered champagne at the Ritz, the real frustration begins: wading through reports and records that need to be untangled to reclaim your identity.
Nat Wood and his team at the Federal Trade Commission earned an Igniting Innovation award in 2016 for the creation of IdentityTheft.gov, a one-stop online resource for anyone who has been a victim of identity theft. Instead of trekking to the police station to file a report, figuring out how to stop more fraudulent accounts from being opened and then thinking up what to write in letters to creditors, consumers now can find all the information they need on the FTC site. By entering details of how their identity was stolen, users can get a complete plan listing what they need to do next.
“We know that identity theft is really damaging to people, both financially and emotionally,” said Wood, associate director of the Division of Consumer and Business Education in FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “Anything we can do to improve that, to reassure people it’s going to be okay and they’ve got some control, makes a big difference.”
Although the FTC has long worked to address the identity theft issue, Wood’s approach to look at the information from the viewpoint of the consumer, to put it into plain English and design a user-friendly website that provides user-specific recovery plans is new. The site is available in Spanish as well.
“It went from a system of good advice to a system of actual self-help, where people could use the tool to create the things that they would need to resolve their problem,” said Monica Vaca, the acting associate director of the FTC’s Division of Consumer Responsibility and Operations.
“It went from being fairly passive to being a true service to the American public. For someone who didn’t know what the next step was, it guides you through every step of the way,” Vaca said.
The website, launched in January 2016, is already getting good reviews from consumers like this unnamed victim: “Thank you for providing this service. It’s scary when someone steals your SS #, and this helps to provide a sense of security. It also helps show that our government can do positive things!”
“Anything that helps regular people get over this problem and cuts down the amount of time that bad people can be stealing from them…it feels good to be doing that,” said Wood.
In April, 2016, IdentityTheft.gov won the “Impacter” award at ACT-IAC’s annual Igniting Innovation Showcase and Awards event for the innovation with the “greatest magnitude of innovation results and benefits”. Content repurposed from: Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medals program: https://servicetoamericamedals.org/honorees/view_profile.php?profile=483.