To Catch An ID Thief

Bank-sponsored Identity Theft Assistance Center will share information with the FTC to help catch identity thieves
The Identity Theft Assistance Center, which aids victims of identity-theft fraud, said last week that it will share data with the Federal Trade Commission to help law enforcement catch ID thieves.

The FTC will place information collected from the center in its Consumer Sentinel database, which more than 1,300 federal, state, and local law-enforcement agencies can access. The database is used as a source of information for ID-theft investigations, said George Handley, unit chief of the FBI's Financial Institution Fraud unit, in a statement.

The Identity Theft Assistance Center is a bank-sponsored service that helps victims access credit reports, place fraud alerts with credit bureaus, and notify companies that appear to have had accounts opened fraudulently under victims' names. In its first year of operation, the group has helped 2,000 victims restore their identities.

Although banks have worked individually with law enforcement, the Identity Theft Assistance Center's effort is the first in which banks have pooled information, says Anne Wallace, executive director of the Identity Theft Assistance Corp., which operates the center. The lack of information that ties together fraudulent activities across jurisdictional boundaries has hampered law-enforcement efforts, Wallace says. The Consumer Sentinel database provides such information and helps aggregate individual reports to spot large fraud schemes. "Instead of a lot of $50 crimes," Wallace says, "it's now one $50,000 crime."

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