Identity theft is a growing problem, with over 15 million victims per year. It’s likely you probably know someone who has been the victim of identity theft, or maybe you’ve been a victim yourself.
Employees in the federal government are all too aware of this problem, and they’re working to do something about it.
So how do we reduce that number? Nat Wood has some answers. Wood is the Associate Director for Consumer and Business Education at the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). He is a finalist in the Homeland Security and Law Enforcement category for the Partnership for Public Service’s Service to America Medals, or SAMMIES — an award that recognizes and celebrates remarkable work in the federal government. Wood recently sat down with Chris Dorobek on the DorobekINSIDER to discuss his work in fighting identity theft.
One of the problems when tackling identity theft is that it comes in many forms. From stealing someone’s credit information to using someone else’s credentials when arrested, each identity theft situation has to be treated differently. Wood discussed the creation of identitytheft.gov, a website where people can go to report identity theft to the FTC. There, you will receive a personal recovery plan based specifically on what happened. Many of the resources include pre-filled letters to send to merchants or banks and an official statement called an identity theft report.
Nearly 600,000 people have already used the system. Of that number, some 500,000 have created an account to receive their personal recovery plan. The site itself is user-friendly and accessible. “My division is responsible for teaching regular people how to avoid fraud and scams and deal with issues in the marketplace,” Wood said.
In his department, staff members include usability analysts, designers and experts who write in plain language. The mission is to educate the public, so Wood’s team looks at existing research and conducts interviews with identity theft victims. “We can quickly get to the most important information and then give [people] that customized information about how to respond to their specific situation,” Wood said.
Before he was protecting citizens, Wood worked for a small public interest public relations firm in Washington. Working for the FTC aligned with Wood’s interests in fighting fraud and other scams. “It’s our job to help people understand what their rights are,” he said.
The FTC helps almost half a million people per year with identity theft. Without people like Wood, many would be stuck, not knowing what to do or where to go for help. Being a victim of identity theft can be a scary time. Wood works to make the experience less horrible in an efficient and cost effective way.
As a SAMMIE finalist, Wood attributed his success to the government mentors he had in the past and keeping an open mind. “If you can bring great people into government, they can learn the subject matter as long as they have the skills to make those impressive contributions,” Wood said.