“That’s really not something I worry about. I don’t think anyone would want to be me,” said Tanner Ludolph, a TJC sophomore. He is referring to identity theft and credit card fraud.
There is an estimated 10 million new cases of identity theft each year. This is roughly 19 people having personal information stolen every minute, 29 percent of which are people ages 18-29, according to identitytheft.lifetips.com
Police Chief Magazine states that 4 out of 10 students have a credit card in their name. They also report that 48 percent of teachers input grades using social security numbers (SSN), so students should be mindful of others being able to find this information on their own. If you become a victim of identity theft, it can destroy your chances of getting a good job or an important loan later in life.
The easiest way for an identity thief to use a credit card fraudulently is by obtaining a social security number, something everyone has that specifically identifies that individual.
This will allow the thief to access the victim’s vital and personal information. This can lead to thieves using the victim’s credit information to make expensive purchases, take out a card in their name or even collecting the refund from a tax return (irs.gov).
“Prevention is key,” said Mechele Mills, president and CEO of the East Texas Better Business Bureau (BBB), “However, there is no guarantee that you won’t become a victim of identity theft. In fact, there’s a likely chance you will be.”
There are many ways to combat being a victim of identity theft. Never carry a SSN card in a wallet or purse and don’t give out a SSN unless it is absolutely necessary. Store all documents containing useful information in a locked drawer or safe at home.
“Shred anything that has personal information on it, if you no longer need it,” said Mills. “We are hosting a Shred Day Sat. April 26 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at 3600 Old Bullard Rd. at the East Texas BBB’s office.”
Make sure to look out for “shoulder surfers,” a term USA.gov uses to describe those who will sneak a peek at PIN numbers as a person types it into an ATM. The Federal Trade Commission warns people to carry only the items they need with them such as their identification card and a debit or credit card, and never under any circumstance should someone write down their PIN number on a piece of paper.
Another easy way that identity thieves rip people off is unsolicited requests such as e-mails, phone calls or post mail asking for people’s SSN or other important information. “Don’t click attachments or links from people you don’t know. Don’t give your personal information to anybody who contacts you, unless you know who they are,” Said Mills.
Victims of identity theft or anyone who notices suspicious activities regarding their bank statements should file a report with their bank and local authorities. People can even flag their accounts so the credit-recording bureau can alert them to any purchases that seem out of place.
For students, identity theft may not seem like something they have to worry about, but anyone is a potential victim. However, with the tips given, students should be able to avoid credit card fraud.
“All I have to say is good luck,” said Tanner Ludolph. “I’m broke.”
Tell us your thoughts and concerns on identity theft at MyTJCnews.com