When an identity is stolen, victims are usually left to fend for themselves as they wade through a complicated sea of paperwork, credit bureaus and government agencies.
"Identity theft is basically your problem to solve," said Richard Thode, a Dayton resident and part-owner of ID Theft Recovery.
Thode and his partner, Rick Perez of California, launched the Internet business last month, selling software to assist victims through the process.
A recent report ranked Nevada second in the nation in reports of identity theft per capita. Federal and Las Vegas law enforcement formed a task force to fight the problem last week.
The partners are selling three programs, one for those interested in taking proactive steps to avoid becoming a victim, one for victims and a third program that combines the two. The programs can be purchased on CDs or downloaded.
"What makes ours unique is it's easier to navigate and easy to use," Thode said. "It makes it easier because the information is all here."
The forms are easy to fill out and provide instructions for users to contact or send letters to various agencies, banks or credit bureaus.
The reactive kit is formatted as an investigative work plan, addressing 18 potential problem areas. Victims are walked through the kit step by step and shown how to organize files and what evidence to collect to prove their cases. The kit provides links to reference material and pertinent Web sites.
The proactive kit details how to avoid becoming a victim and protect personal information.
Thode retired in 2003 as senior special agent with the Treasury Inspector General Tax Administration. He spent several years as a member of a multi-agency task force investigating identity theft.
During his time in law enforcement, Thode said he realized local, state and federal agencies lacked resources to deal with the escalating problem. His partner retired in 1998 as Deputy Assistant Regional Inspector for the administration.
Together, they began researching the problem and developing the business about a year ago. They focused on victim's concerns for better education and better investigation, Thode said.
"Only the most severe cases are probably going to get the attention," Thode said.
In Nevada, 40 percent of fraud includes use of credit cards, 25 percent is from phone and utility bills and 21 percent involves banks. Only about 30 percent of banks provide customers with information, Thode said.
A January report by the Federal Trade Commission that found Nevada had 2,541 identity theft victims in 2003 - second behind Arizona per capita. The state ranked sixth nationwide in fraud complaints, according to the Associated Press.
Contact Jill Lufrano at firstname.lastname@example.org or 881-1217.