Twice a week, Anne Wallace drives from her Towson home to Baltimore’s Penn Station, and catches the MARC train No. 513 to Washington, D.C.—one of 20,000 commuters who ride the MARC every day. That’s roughly the same number of people helped over the past four years by the nonprofit D.C.-based Identity Theft Assistance Center (ITAC), where Wallace has served for four years as executive director—and now has been named president. ITAC leads the fight against identity theft through victim assistance, research, and law
According to the 2007 Identity Fraud Report, 8.4 million Americans were victims of identity fraud in 2006, equaling $49.3 billion in consumer losses (the average victim lost $587). While these figures are staggering, they’re nothing new.
“Criminals trying to separate consumers from their money is as old as the Bible,” says Wallace, sitting at her home office in Towson. “Jacob and Esau was the original identity theft.”
With the number of stolen credit cards, spam scams, and unauthorized ATM withdrawals a multi-billion-dollar problem, 47 of the nation’s largest financial institutions—Bank of America, GMAC, and Wachovia, among others—came together to create ITAC in 2004. And Wallace, former assistant director with the Federal Reserve Board, has been at the helm since Day One. Four years later, ITAC has helped more than 25,000 identity theft victims, and dozens of additional banks and other companies have since joined the cause as members.
For now, ITAC is a free service available only to customers of its member banks and other financial companies. But in Wallace’s crystal ball, the institution will eventually morph into a government-funded umbrella protecting all identity-theft victims.
A graduate of Boston University Law School, Wallace, who lives with her husband Don Hooker, a semi-retired, former Alex. Brown financial consultant, says running ITAC “was a natural outgrowth” of her background in privacy law. But she’s quick to point out that connecting identity theft to cyber-bandits is a misconception.
“Many times, the culprit is a member of the family or an in-home caretaker,” she explains. Has Wallace been the victim of identity theft? “I think we’ve all gotten that call from the credit card company asking, ‘Were you in Panama yesterday?’”