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Finance Firms To Give FTC ID Theft Data

The financial services industry is pooling its own data on identity theft victims with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and law enforcement groups.

The Identity Theft Assistance Center (ITAC), a program funded by the 48 participating financial services companies that are Members of the Identity Theft Assistance Corp., said Tuesday it was moving beyond its original goal of counseling for identity theft victims.

Ann Wallace, the group's executive director, said ITAC has information on approximately 2,000 cases and the data would be available to the FCC within a matter of weeks.

"We want to get this information into the hands of law enforcement officials all over the country," she said. "They [law enforcement] are often hampered by jurisdictional boundaries. With this information, they can find multiple victims and it'll be so much easier to make a case."

The data on the cases will go directly to the FCC's Consumer Sentinel Network, which has more than 1,300 federal, state and local law enforcement members. Through the FCC database, members can access identity theft data.

"Centralizing complaint information matters enormously in catching identity thieves, since one thief may use the identities of victims from all across the country," Lois Greisman, associate director of the FTC's Division of Planning and Information, said in a statement. "This is exactly the kind of cooperative effort that can make a difference in stopping this serious crime."

In 2003, the FTC received more than 500,000 consumer fraud and identity theft complaints with consumers reporting losses of more than $400 million. The previous year, the Government Accountability Office cited a consumer survey that shows a typical identity theft victim spends an average of 175 hours to resolve the theft.

Since the beginning of this year, numerous financial services companies and data brokers have reported widespread exposure of consumers' personal data in a series of high-profile identity theft cases.

ITAC was founded in 2004 by the financial industry to provide free help to the victims.

"Our first goal was to establish a victim assistance center and our second major objective was to get this information to law enforcement on a pooled bases," Wallace said. "Many of our member companies work every day with law enforcement officials but the difference here is the pooled data aspect."

Brian McGinley,a senior vice president at Wachovia, added in a statement, "For years, banks, credit card issuers and other financial services companies have shared information one on one with law enforcement. But this is the first time the financial services industry has pooled its data and provided it to FTC's Consumer Sentinel database."