The worries on every college student’s mind typically involve graduation, employment and of course, paying off student loans. But recent statistics show that college-age students are more likely to be the victims of identity theft than any other age group.
According to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, (NAIC), “identity theft occurs when a person uses your personal information, such as Social Security number and date of birth, with the intent to commit fraud or to aid an unlawful activity.”
According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, there are three types of identity theft: unauthorized use of an existing account, unauthorized use of personal information to create a new account, and misuse of personal information towards fraud.
In their most recent study, conducted in 2012, the Bureau found that 16.6 million American citizens over the age of 16 were victims of at least one incidence of identity theft. The report also stated that 4.8 percent of all identity theft cases happened to people between the ages of 18 and 24. Most of the victims did not even know they had their identity was stolen until they were contacted by a financial institution about the crime, according to the report.
While many students do not think about it, checking bank statements and credit reports is important to preventing identity theft.
“I check my statement every month,” said Brittany Portee, a senior. “I might not remember what day or particular transaction I make, but if everything is within reason, I’m not going to worry about it.”
For students looking to prevent their identity from being stolen, the NAIC offers some advice. Keep your driver’s license and Social Security number apart and avoid carrying both of them in your wallet. Use a shredder before throwing bills and pre-approved credit cards away.
Do not use a public computer to make any online orders or pay any bills. Limit how much personal information you post on social media. Lastly, the NAIC warns students to be suspicious of any solicitors.
“Never give personal financial information or your Social Security number to anyone unless they have good reason for needing it.”
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) also offers advice for the general public on how to avoid identity theft and what to do if it happens to you. When disposing of any personal computers or mobile devices, the FTC advises a complete wipe of the systems. Find a program for your computer or consult the owner’s manual for how to delete information permanently and be sure that the SIM card is removed.
Once you know that your identity has been stolen, the FTC says to put out an Initial Fraud Alert, by calling one of the three national credit reporting companies that keep your credit history. This makes it harder for your information to be used as business have to contact you after a credit purchase to verify your identity. Then you must order your credit reports, free of charge from the credit reporting company, so that you can determine any unauthorized charges and be sure your identity has not been stolen.
Once you have taken these steps, you create an identity theft report through the FTC’s website, which will stop credit companies from collecting charge from the stolen account.
Elena Vitullo can be reached at email@example.com.