UT identity theft resource center to open in summer 2014

Kate Dannenmaier

Last year, Americans lost $24.7 billion to identity fraud, but the UT Center for Identity’s new resource center for identity theft, fraud and privacy will offer materials to help prevent more losses.

Lauren Willis, Texas State Comptroller’s office spokeswoman, said Comptroller Susan Combs played an integral role in getting funding for the resource center.

“[Combs secured] $5 million, which interestingly is the largest state-level investment in this sort of thing in the country,” Willis said. “No other state has anything like this.”

Expected to open in summer 2014, the resource center will provide training tactics and packages, iPhone apps, top-10 lists and other materials to help people be more alert to the issue, protect their identities and recover if they have issues, according to Suzanne Barber, the director of the Center for Identity.

Barber said the resource center will do research to determine what people’s most valuable assets are in order to figure out how to protect them..

“We’ll be able to tell you what the best practices are or give you the best app to help you monitor, but a lot of the research in this area hasn’t been done,” Barber said. “It’s key before we can give you some of these great tools and services to do the research.”

Barber said she felt like the University was uniquely positioned to tackle the problem of identity fraud, given the talent of faculty on campus.

“We seek to engage faculty from law, public policy, engineering, the sciences, business and communication because a lot of the issues around identity theft and fraud need a multidisciplinary solution,” Barber said. “We have a top-notch faculty in all of those disciplines.”

Secret Service spokesman Brian Leary said the Secret Service has maintained a close working relationship with the Center for Identity since 2010.

“The Secret Service provides the center with subject matter expertise, event speakers and law enforcement ‘best practices’ on issues relating to identity theft,” Leary said.

Barber said, with more identities being stored online, the key to keeping one’s assets safe is to stay vigilant and not to use the same identifying information everywhere.

“We have to have a way of transacting in a trusted way,” Barber said. “We have to be able to trust who it is that we’re giving our information to. So identity becomes so important.”