Do not trust the trust policy, protect your safety

By defaultuser
September 19, 2002

You really ought to count how many public documents include your social security number. The college uses it for student identification instead of a randomly generated student ID number.

We are talking about the one number that can unlock your identity, making you vulnerable to identity theft, which the Federal Bureau of Investigation has called, “the fastest growing white-collar crime.”

The college’s use of social security numbers is contributing to the risks of students being victims of identity theft. Even if not a single student were to actually fall victim to identity theft, if college practices contribute to even the perception of danger, they should be changed.

Our privacy is too frivolously handled by the college. Social security numbers can be found on student identification cards, professors’ class lists, student schedules and even the commonly overlooked second piece of paper printed by Registrar after you have already grabbed your freshly printed schedule and left the room.

For the moderately motivated criminal, stealing a student’s identity could be easier than snagging a sandwich from the cafeteria for later consumption. Social security numbers are too easy to come by on campus.

Still not scared? Two words to frighten the unconcerned: trust policy.

Currently, the information that is used more and more by criminals to steal identities is protected only by the judgment of college employees. Last week, staff writer Jana Fagotti shared her experience with identity theft in Perspectives. Once her case was settled, she asked Charlie Shaffner, Director of Public Safety, what would happen if someone picked up her ID card and called the college, claiming to be a parent, looking for her financial information. “There is a trust policy when a person calls on the phone claiming to be a parent,” he said. “Most times we ask the person to come in if possible. Otherwise we trust that the person is a valid parent or guardian and give them the information.” Of course Shaffner is the just the person who spoke of the policy. Although he has asked at least two students to call out their social security number in class when he did not find them on his roster, Shaffner is not the creator of the policy – he just follows policy.

Before the whole college accepts its largest fraudulent class, the administration had better reassess its trust policy and how it identifies its students. It wouldn’t cost much to take the extra precautions to protect the campus from identity theft. At least offer another randomly generated student ID number for those students who feel uncomfortable with their social security number being tossed around unprotected. No matter the cost or efforts, it’s a very small price to pay to assure the safety of some vulnerable college students. The college shouldn’t wait until a tragedy forces it to do the right thing.

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