Identity theft becomes a reality for college students

By Nicole Osuch
December 1, 2006


Identity theft is the fastest growing crime in America, with 900,000 new victims each year. In today’s information age, nobody’s immune, according to For most students, identity theft is the last thing on their minds after an avid school work load and a social life.

Research proves that college students are rather unconcerned about the threat of identity theft. According to a recent survey of college students done by Impulse Research for Chubb Group Insurance Companies, “49 percent of college students receive credit card applications on a daily or weekly basis. Almost 30 percent of students throw out card applications without destroying them.” As a result, an identity thief could obtain the application and fill it out using the student’s name.

Business professor John Heiberger said, “Students should tear up bills before they throw them away so people can’t get information from them.” It is also a good idea to tear or shred old bank statements, medical statements and credit card receipts.

Another alarming fact produced by Impulse Research is that, 30 percent of students rarely, if ever, reconcile their credit card and checking account balances.

Leslie Osifat, a sophomore undeclared major, said, “We learned how to do bank reconciliations in accounting class but I never do it because it takes up too much time to do.”

As if college students already are not in enough debt, imagine adding their thief’s expenditures onto their tab. By keeping a close eye on their credit and bank statements, students should look for any purchases that they did not make. This may be one of the first signs that their identity has been stolen.

Heiberger also recommended students to save copies of receipts from stores and restaurants.

Some warning signs of attempted identity theft are to look out for people standing too close to them at an ATM because an identity thief could be peering over their shoulder specifically looking for their PIN number that they punch in.

Today, technology opens students up to a whole new realm of threats especially on the internet.

“You should never respond to internet requests from your social security, bank or credit card company even if it looks like the company is contacting you. There are lots of people creating fake official looking websites to try and get information,” Heiberger said.

According to Commerce Bank’s official site, people should not reply to e-mails or pop-up messages asking for personal or financial information. The site noted that legitimate companies like Commerce Bank will never ask for personal or financial information through an e-mail.

Heiberger added, “Don’t give credit card information on-line unless you know it is a ‘secure’ site.” Students should look for the Trust-e symbol or a Better Business Bureau online seal. These symbols and seals represent that the company has been audited and reckoned a secure and trustworthy site.

48 percent of students have had their grades posted by Social Security number according to Impulse Research. This leaves students more vulnerable to identity theft. In addition, many colleges use student’s Social Security numbers as their student identification number. Cabrini College does not do this and instead, uses randomly generated student numbers instead.

Students should guard their Social Security number and only give it out when it is absolutely necessary. Students should never carry around their social security card in their wallets.

Students should never let their guard down when out in public as well because an identity thief could be lurking. Heiberger said, “Students should be careful with their purse and wallet when they go to the bar and not leave it lying around on a bar, table or under a seat at the movies or a concert.”

Heiberger said, “If you find that someone has stolen your identity, immediately notify the police, your bank, credit card companies and a credit reporting agencies such as Equifax.”

Nicole Osuch

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