FTC report highlights continuing threat of identity theft to millions – National Consumers League

March 3, 2015

Contact: Ben Klein, National Consumers League (202) 835-3323, benk@nclnet.org

Washington, DC – The release of the Federal Trade Commission’s annual Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book once again highlights the harm that identity thieves are inflicting on millions of American consumers. For the 15th consecutive year, complaints about identity theft topped the Commission’s annual list of top scams.

“Identity theft, and the data breaches that fuel it, must be a top concern not only of regulators at the FTC, but policymakers throughout Washington and beyond,” said NCL Executive Director Sally Greenberg. “The message from 332,000 identity theft complaints to the FTC is clear: more needs to be done to protect consumers from this fraud.”

The Data Book identified tax-related identity theft as a top source of identity theft complaints to the FTC. While there is no fool-proof way to prevent tax ID theft, NCL has published a step-by-step guide to spotting and recovering from this fraud.

According to Javelin Strategy & Research, nearly 1 in 3 data breach victims will also experience identity fraud.  As information on tens of millions of consumers affected by data breaches continues to fall in to the hands of cybercriminals, it is likely that millions more consumers will suffer from identity fraud.

For policymakers, the need for reform should be clear. Ensuring that companies collecting consumers’ data protect it critical to bringing down rates identity fraud. However, without leadership from Washington, businesses and other entities that amass vast troves of consumer data will have little incentive to put data security ahead of profits.

Unfortunately, real reforms to improve data security have languished in Congress while hackers and other cyber-crooks have had a field day at consumers’ expense.  That’s why NCL has called on policymakers to adopt NCL’s Congressional Data Security Agenda. The agenda calls for reforms that:

  • Create a national data breach notification standard, while protecting strong state laws like California’s;
  • Require data holders to abide by reasonable data security requirements;
  • Clarify and strengthen the FTC’s data security authority;
  • Promote robust cyber-insurance underwriting standards;
  • Increase federal civil and criminal penalties for malicious hacking; and
  • Strengthen international anti-cybercrime partnerships.

“While the 300,000-plus identity theft complaints may seem like a huge number, it is just a drop in the bucket given the fact that most ID theft victims don’t report the crime, if they’re even aware of it,” said NCL Vice President of Public Policy, Telecommunications and Fraud John Breyault. “While consumers can take steps to mitigate their risk of ID theft, they can’t prevent it entirely. That’s why we need leaders in Washington to help make sure that the companies that profit from consumers’ data protect it to the greatest extent possible.”


About the National Consumers League

The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America’s pioneer consumer organization. Our mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. For more information, visit www.nclnet.org.