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Lessons Learned from Identity Theft Investigations download filesPDF [113K]

Don't let identity thieves steal your future!

I'm a student; why do I need to be concerned about identity theft? I don't have a lot of money or assets, why would I be a target for identity theft?

Being a student does not safeguard you against identity theft, one of the fastest growing consumer crimes in the nation. Identity thieves don't steal your money; they steal your name and reputation and use them for their own financial gain. They attempt to steal your future! Identity theft literally steals who you are, and it can seriously jeopardize your financial future.

Imagine having thousands of dollars of unauthorized debt and a wrecked credit rating because of identity theft. Also, the unfortunate reality of identity theft is that it is you, the victim, who is responsible for cleaning up the mess and re-establishing your good name and credit. The experience of thousands of identity theft victims is that this frustrating experience often requires months and even years.

In fact as a student, you may even be more vulnerable to identity theft because of the availability of your personal data and the way many students handle this data. A recent national survey of college students found that:

  • Almost half of all college students receive credit card applications on a daily or weekly basis. Many of these students throw out card applications without destroying them.
  • Nearly a third of students rarely, if ever, reconcile their credit card and checking account balances.
  • Almost 50 percent of students have had grades posted by Social Security number.
All of these factors make students potential identity theft victims. In addition, as a student, you may be surprised to learn how many of your daily activities expose you to this crime. For example:
  • Do you use your personal computer for online banking transactions?
  • Do you use your personal computer to buy merchandise or purchase tickets for travel, concerts, or other services?
  • Do you receive credit card offers in the mail? Do you discard these documents before you shred of them?
  • Do you store personal information in your computer?
  • Do you use a cell phone?
  • Do you use your Social Security number for identification?
  • Do you have a student loan?

You probably answered yes to at least one of these questions about daily transactions that you routinely perform. Each of these routine actions places you at risk of being a victim of identity theft because each of these transaction requires you to share personal information such as your bank and credit card account numbers, your Social Security number, or your name, address, and phone number. This is the same personal information that identity thieves use to commit fraud.

What is identity theft?

Identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in the United States, costing victims over $5 billion annually. Identity theft occurs when someone else uses your personally identifying information without your knowledge or permission to obtain credit cards, get wireless or phone products and services, obtain loans and mortgages, get a job, and commit other types of fraudulent or even criminal acts, in your name, leaving you responsible for the consequences.

The identity thief uses key pieces of your information such as Social Security and driver's license numbers to obtain credit, merchandise and services in your name. An estimated 9.9 million consumers were victims of identity theft in 2003, and unfortunately, that number is growing.

If your identity is stolen, you may spend months or even years clearing up the damage thieves have caused to your reputation and credit record. In the time it takes to resolve these issues, you may lose job opportunities and be refused loans for education, housing, or a car. Although you have not committed a crime, been late with a payment, or abused your credit, you are the one who would suffer severe financial consequences as a result of identity theft. As a student or recent graduate, being a victim of identity theft jeopardizes your financial future just as you are beginning to establish your credit record.

Identity theft is a federal crime. The Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act of 1998 made it a federal crime when anyone "knowingly transfers or uses, without lawful authority, a means of identification of another person with the intent to commit, or to aid or abet, any unlawful activity that constitutes a violation of the Federal law, or that constitutes a felony under any applicable State or local law."

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Last Modified: 02/22/2005