Financial firms to share ID theft data with FTC

Identity Theft Assistance Center will share information, such as ID theft scams

A U.S. center that helps victims of identity theft will begin sharing consumer complaint information with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and law enforcement agencies, it announced Tuesday.

The Identity Theft Assistance Center (ITAC), supported by 48 large financial services companies, will begin sharing information such as types of ID theft scams reported and suspected offenders identified by victims. Within about six weeks, ITAC will provide the FTC with that information and the FTC will, in turn, share the information with law enforcement agencies across the U.S.

ITAC officials hope the shared information will help police better investigate identity theft crimes, said Anne Wallace, executive director of the Identity Theft Assistance Corp., the nonprofit organization that operates the center. ITAC will share information only when victims give their permission, she said.

In many cases of ID theft, local law enforcement agencies don't have information about ID theft investigations in the next county or next city, she said. With millions of ID theft cases reported in the U.S. each year, small cases with no obvious links to other local cases can be put on an investigative backburner, she said.

"They don't have the big picture in many cases," Wallace said. "The goal is to allow investigators to find more than one case -- to make links between multiple cases."

In the past, financial services companies often shared ID theft data with their local law enforcement agencies, but there was no national data-sharing effort, Wallace said.

The FTC and ITAC have had a working relationship since the center was founded in October 2003, Wallace said. The FTC also has relationships with about 1,200 law enforcement agencies across the U.S., added Lois Greisman, an associate director in charge of the ID theft program at the FTC.

Greisman applauded ITAC for the information-sharing partnership. "It's really good stuff that they're doing," she said. "They will share their consumer complaints with us. I think that's a big deal."

ITAC is supported by members of financial industry groups The Financial Services Roundtable and BITS. Its goal is to help victims of ID theft resolve their problems. Among the supporting companies are BB&T Corp., Ford Motor Credit Co., MBNA Corp., U.S. Bancorp and Wells Fargo & Co.