identity_theft.jpgA new initiative aimed at addressing the escalating trend of identity theft launched today in San Francisco.

The San Francisco Identity Theft Council is a nonprofit, volunteer effort to educate and assist victims or potential victims, according to its executive director, Neal O’Farrell.

“It’s really a community response to identity theft,” he said.

O’Farrell said his group is working with police, prosecutors, banks and community organizations in the Bay Area to combat the problem.

“Law enforcement are swamped,” he said. “It’s an absolute epidemic that most police departments don’t have the skills or financial resources to investigate.”

According to O’Farrell, who works as a security consultant, despite some sophisticated computer attacks on banks and social networking websites, most cases of identity theft are “crimes of opportunity” such as a stolen purse or briefcase with personal information inside.

The Identity Theft Council offers victims help dealing with debt collectors and checking credit reports, and it is launching identity theft awareness campaigns with local credit unions and in schools, O’Farrell said.

The group, which began earlier this year, made its official launch this morning at an event in San Francisco attended by state Sen. Mark Leno.

More information about the group’s free services is available at

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