Get Ahead of Fraud

Think you'd know if you've been the victim of identity fraud? A new study says many students don't.

Of all demographics, students indicated the least amount of concern about fraud happening. Yet, this group is more likely than any other group to experience significant effects due to fraud. Students are also the least likely to detect identity fraud themselves. Instead, a debt collector or lender has to break the news.

What Is Identity Theft?

Identity Theft is the fastest growing crime in America. Identity theft occurs when someone uses your personal information, such as name, social security number, or date of birth to make purchases, withdraw cash, set up accounts and services, and secure loans in your name without your approval.

How Can They Get Your Personal Information?

Thieves can obtain personal information from many sources, such as lost or stolen credit cards, social security card, checkbook, or health insurance card.

Identity Theft2

They can also:

  • Sift through your trash for discarded papers.
  • Look over your shoulder at the ATM to capture your PIN.
  • Skim your credit card during transactions with a special storage device.
  • Try phishing (send you an official looking email asking for personal information).
  • Try vishing (leave you an official sounding voicemail asking you to call in with personal information).
  • Use malware, malicious software that affects your computer.

They May Also Contact You With a Scheme

  • Pretending to be a representative from your bank or the IRS.
  • Emailing you with a fake donation request or emergency.
  • Asking for a fee in advance of granting you a scholarship or loan.

A Word of Caution

As a college student, you’re going to have many offers and promotions coming at you. If it sounds too good to be true— it probably is. And if you need help determining whether something’s legit, show it to your adviser or another trusted person before accepting anything.

How Can You Prevent Identity Fraud?

You can prevent identity fraud from happening to you by knowing what to look out for and being careful with your money and personal information. Here are some tips to get you started:

Guard the Big Stuff

  • Shred everything with your name, address, credit card numbers and bank account on it before you throw it away.
  • Opt out of pre-approval offers.
  • Sign up for paperless billing.
  • Leave your birth certificate, Social Security card and passport at home, unless you really need it.
  • Limit who you share any of those numbers with.

Avoid Oversharing on Social Networks

  • Leave your full name, address and birth date out of your profiles.
  • Make your passwords secure and change them often.
  • Ignore friend requests from people you don’t know.

Be Careful When Shopping or Banking Online

  • Shop only on secured sites that start with https.
  • Log out of any accounts before you shut down your computer (e.g., email, bank account, student account).
  • Avoid shopping or banking on public school computers; and if you have to, never save your username or passwords.

Protect Your Smartphone

  • Password-protect your phone and apps.
  • Download software updates regularly.
  • Take advantage of security technology such as fingerprint logins.

Monitor Your Statements

  • Check your statements every month to detect any charges that aren’t yours.
  • Notice if your statements stop coming (someone might have switched the address).
  • Look into any contracts or statements you receive in your name that you didn’t apply for.

What Can You Do If Your Identity Is Compromised?

You must act fast! Thieves usually act within the first 48 hours of having your credit card or financial information.

  • Contact your bank or credit union.
  • Contact the Police Department.
  • Alert the credit reporting agencies to place a fraud alert on your accounts.
  • Report to the Federal Trade Commission.

You’ve Completed All the Right Reporting, Now What?

  • Close any new accounts that have been opened in your name.
  • Remove any unauthorized charges from your accounts.
  • Correct any fraudulent entries on your credit report.

Additional Resources