Don’t let identity theft ruin your life

By Jana Fagotti
September 12, 2002

I had just gotten home to New Jersey from my first year at Cabrini. My parents handed me an envelope from my local post office confirming a change of address to Philadelphia. I was very puzzled as to where the idea of me changing my address had come from. I contacted the post office and was informed that they had written proof that I wanted all of my mail forwarded and that some of my mail had already been forwarded. I asked for a copy and needless to say, I received the copy in the mail a day later. There it was, a form with printed writing, not even remotely like my own, that included my full name, home phone number, address and the forwarded address as well as what was supposed to be my signature.

My blood ran cold for a second as I stared at the paper in disbelief. Who could possibly be trying to take my identity? In the next few days the New Jersey State Police and Philadelphia Police had been contacted and were concerned. They informed me that it was possible that I was involved in a “fraud ring” and encouraged me put alerts on all of my financial accounts.

What scared me most was that there could be someone out there pretending to be ME.

In mid-July, I received a Capital One envelope in the mail and, upon opening it, found that I had a Capital One account that I had never applied for. I contacted them and explained the situation and cancelled the account. Two weeks later I received another bill from Capitol One. I called again and explained that I had tried to close the account earlier. I was informed that the card had been applied for online and had included my full name, correct home address, phone number and the last four digits of my social security number. I was livid at this point and attempted to cancel the account again.

I forced myself to reevaluate what information I had entered online in the past. I do not buy anything on the Internet and never apply for anything that requires any of my personal information. I gave up temporarily and decided to start my sophomore year on a more positive note.

As I sat at a table during the leadership conference in August, I began telling a friend about what had happened to me this summer. Then, out of nowhere, “Are you a victim of Identity Fraud, ” intervened Megan Beauduy who was sitting nearby. I was shocked to learn that Megan had encountered problem with Capital One over the summer. She urged me to contact public safety, as she had done already.

I spoke to Charlie Schaffner, director of public safety, about my situation and discussed with him several concerns that I had about security on campus. He informed me that there was only two reported incidences of identity fraud this year, but Cabrini had experienced problems in the past.

I realized that I had entered the last four digits of my social security number online in order to check my grades in early June. I questioned the security of the Cabrini website and wondered if that was how my social security number had been obtained. Schaffner assured me that the website security was still being worked on. However, I’d choose my security over my grades any day.

My next question concerned the purpose of a student’s home address being printed on his/her ID cards. My roommate recently lost her ID card and while Public Safety can cancel its access into the buildings it still has her entire home address and name in clear site for identity theft. Schaffner said that the cards have always stated the student’s home address but having it removed is “something to look into.”

I asked what would happen if someone picked up her ID card and called the college, claiming to be a parent, looking for her financial information, for example. “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.”

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Jana Fagotti

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