Debt buyer Portfolio Recovery Associates Inc. (PRA), based in Norfolk, Va., has announced the launch of a program designed to help individuals who have been victims of identity theft.

PRA Verification Services provides individualized service for consumers who say that PRA accounts resulted from identity theft and would like PRA's assistance to repair the damage done to their credit and restore their good name. PRA started piloting the identity theft initiative in November 2010 before launching it this week.

An estimated 23% of identity theft cases are discovered during the collection process, according to the Federal Trade Commission.

In many cases, those perpetrating identity theft will alter the address and phone number on fraudulently opened accounts. The victim may become aware of the account only when a collector obtains a proper address or phone number and makes contact.

As part of the service, PRA officials say the company will bear the cost of obtaining a dedicated specialist from a major credit bureau company to help victims fill out the paperwork associated with identity theft - including police reports, credit bureau notifications and information on how to file a complaint with the FTC.

"Identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in America," says Steve Fredrickson, PRA's chairman, president and CEO. "The House of Representatives Committee on Ways and Means identified with a survey that it takes an average victim about $500 and 30 hours to resolve an identity theft case. The good news is that most cases can be fully resolved and powerful steps can be put in place to minimize any future risks."

PRA Verification Services' program is available free to consumers found to be eligible via preliminary screening. Those individuals are referred to a major credit bureau company only if they want to take advantage of the offer.

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