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FTC launches nationwide ID theft education campaign

November 18, 2010
‘AvoID Theft: Deter, Detect, Defend’

Identity theft now ranks as the top complaint filed with the Federal Trade Commission, with reportedly more than 20 million victims of this growing crime. This problem is increasingly a concern of business. A 2002 study by TransUnion, a large credit service company, found that theft of employer records was its leading cause.


The FTC in May announced a nationwide campaign—"AvoID Theft: Deter, Detect, Defend"—to educate individuals and businesses on ways to protect against this crime. The campaign offers a comprehensive kit to advocacy organizations and others. Businesses can take steps to minimize their risk of becoming a victim of identity theft.


  • Deter – Take steps to reduce your risk of ID theft
  • Detect – Monitor your personal information
  • Defend – Act quickly when you suspect identity theft


The program coincides with issuance of an executive order signed by President Bush that created an Identity Theft Task Force, chaired by Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales and co-chaired by FTC Chairman Deborah Platt Majoras. The Task Force will develop a strategic plan to enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of government efforts to deter, prevent, detect, investigate, and prosecute identity theft.


"Personal information is the new currency," said Majoras. "Consumers should protect their personal information as carefully as they protect their cash."


The FTC and the Justice Department sent "AvoID Theft: Deter, Detect, Defend" education kits to 4,500 victim advocates across the country, and the U.S. Social Security Administration is involving its field offices. Other partners include the National Association of Realtors, the American College Personnel Association—College Student Educators International, the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators, the National Crime Prevention Council, the National Apartment Association, and America’s Community Bankers.


The FTC maintains the central federal database for ID theft complaints. With experts in ID theft, privacy, and data security, its Division of Privacy and Identity Protection helps criminal law enforcement detect and prosecute identity thieves and provides victim assistance and consumer education. The agency also pursues law enforcement actions against companies that fail to provide reasonable security for sensitive customer data. Since 2001, the FTC has brought 13 such cases, and challenges organizations that make deceptive claims about privacy procedures and security.


Materials in the "AvoID Theft: Deter, Detect, Defend" education kit include a victim recovery guide, "Take Charge: Fighting Back Against Identity Theft. The kit also contains a training booklet, "Talking About Identity Theft: A How-To Guide," and a 10-minute video on identity theft. All materials are available in English and in Spanish. Through a toll-free number (1-877-IDTHEFT) and Web site (, the FTC has distributed more than 22 million publications on identity theft.


The FTC works for the consumer to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices in the marketplace and to provide information to help consumers spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint in English or Spanish (bilingual counselors are available to take complaints), or to get free information on any of 150 consumer topics, call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357), or use the complaint form at 


The FTC enters Internet, telemarketing, identity theft, and other fraud-related complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to thousands of civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.