Identity theft a risk for students

OUR VIEW: As college students, we are particularly susceptible to identity theft and should take special precautions to protect our personal information
Your identity is perhaps your most precious possession. Although identity theft has existed for thousands of years, recently, with the exponential growth of technology, crooks now have new and easier ways to perpetrate this crime. College students are particularly vulnerable to these kinds of attacks and need to be especially careful to protect valuable personal information like Social Security numbers and credit card data. In the hands of an experienced criminal, this information can be used to steal money for long periods of time before the victim discovers the cause.

There are as many as 9 million identity thefts every year in this country alone according to estimates by the Federal Trade Commission. While many of these cases are resolved quickly some individuals are forced to spend hundreds of dollars and incalculable hours repairing their credit record. Many college students have just recently acquired credit cards and they have a tendency to be careless with important documents, like payment statements, so a thief can acquire this information more easily. By making sure to destroy documents that might leak your personal data, like bank statements, and always guarding personal documents, like your passport, birth certificate and E-mail password, you can prevent this robbery.

Surprisingly, identity theft is often committed by someone close to the victim, according to representatives from Student Legal Services. Whether it is a family member or a roommate, the crime is by no means limited to back-alley thugs and mafia drug lords. Falsified information can be used to gain everything from utility services like electricity and cable television to a loan in the victim’s name. So while you might trust your roommate, it is still a good idea to make sure to keep your records are hidden or locked up.

Awareness is perhaps the best tool for fighting identity theft. Don’t provide any of your personal information unless you are sure it will be protected, especially when making deals over the Internet. If your identity is stolen it is usually a good idea to file an Identity Theft Report with the police. If you have an understanding of how criminals steal personal information and knowledge of how to deal with that theft, identity theft can be severely reduced in the future.

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