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New Texas Efforts to Help Victims of Identity Theft

September 15, 2011

AUSTIN, Texas - Victims of identity theft often feel overwhelmed - not only by the challenges of cleaning up the damages, but by the emotional trauma that accompanies any personal invasion. Free help is available to Texas victims, however, including a toll-free hotline and a step-by-step toolkit, from the nonprofit Texas Legal Services Center (TLSC).

Paula Pierce, manager of TLSC hotline programs, says the vast majority of victims who follow the guidelines are able to fully restore their identity and financial well-being. Although identity theft is on the rise, she says, fortunately the general public is becoming increasingly aware of the problem.

"More and more people are taking the steps they need to to learn how to protect their identity, and people are becoming more savvy: They're shredding their mail and protecting themselves when they're on the Internet."

According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), Texas consistently ranks as one of the riskiest states nationally - partly because it is a drug-corridor border state. Identity theft is often a component of trafficking and money laundering.

In 2010, more than 24,000 identity-theft complaints were filed in the state. Filing a report with local law enforcement is federally required in order to recover stolen funds.

Pierce says people who have not experienced identity theft usually have no idea how emotionally destabilizing it can be, because "someone has gotten access to your most intimate information: your name, your Social Security number, your date of birth."

Thanks to a grant from the U.S. Department of Justice, TLSC is joining a national network of organizations that assist identity-theft victims. The primary focus of the Texas coalition will be to foster greater understanding of the psychological impact, especially for the agencies, officials and corporate representatives who interact with victims.

The TLSC identity theft hotline is 1-888-343-4414. The toolkit website is www.IDVictim.org. The FTC "data book" is available at http://1.usa.gov/fKCgqW.

Peter Malof, Public News Service - TX