Oct 16, 2007

Students become prime targets for identity theft

by Natasha Kormanik

    In recent years, college students have become prime targets for identity theft, and with the amount of responsibilities students have on their plate already, it is easy to see why.
    According to the United States Federal Trade Commission, identity theft is America’s largest growing consumer complaint with over $5 billion in annual consumer losses. With the numbers of theft growing, younger people have to become more cautious with their daily activities.
    Students have enough on their mind as it is. Amid the whirlwind of exams, studying, work and friends, the last thing on a student’s mind is the possibility of having his or her identity stolen. However, add to that the use of credit cards and ID cards in a given week as well as the amount of credit card applications students receive in the mail, and they have a disaster waiting to happen.
    “They’re not thinking of the dangers of the world around them. They’re still in the ‘I am invincible’ stage of their lives,” said Jay Foley, director of consumer and victim services at the Identity Theft Resource Center, according to Bankrate.com.
Many colleges and universities use a student’s social security number for their student identity number. However, Liberty does not work that way.
    Nevertheless, students still need to be careful and know what precautionary actions need to be taken. According to Chubbidtheft.com, in a national survey of college students by Impulse Research for Chubb Insurance Companies, 49 percent of students receive credit card applications on a daily basis with 30 percent of students disposing of the applications and not destroying them. In addition, nearly 30 percent of students ever review or keep their credit card or checking account balances.
Not taking the right actions beforehand can leave the victim cleaning up the mess.
    “It’s almost as if they’ve been assaulted,” said Foley in a Bankrate.com article. “It is a long and tedious process trying to rebuild.”
    This hit home with senior Kari Mitchell who recently found a charge on her account that she did not make.
    “The shoes I bought came to $7.35, but it showed up as $64.03 on the statement,” said Mitchell.
    She spent a frustrating 30 minutes on the phone with the bank, trying to work things out and get to the bottom of what happened.
For Mitchell, investigation is still underway as to whether it was an accident or an actual theft.
    Other victims include students at the University of Texas who fell prey to ID thieves recently when many gave away personal information in exchange for a free T-shirt.
    Young people often “do not see the risk as that big of a deal,” said Ron Teixeira, executive director of the National Cyber Security Alliance, in a Chubbidtheft.com article. “This is partly because they haven’t established credit yet, so they don’t know what being an ID theft victim means.”
    Even though some students may have little credit history and very little money in their bank account, the risk of becoming a victim is very real and one that can mark someone’s credit future.

Contact Natasha Kormanik at nnkormanik@liberty.edu.

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