Identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in the United States, and the students of the nation’s colleges and universities have been drawing special attention from thieves. Students are an especially lucrative market for thieves because they rarely track their finances and may not notice any credit problems until they apply for financial aid.
“Why should I worry? I don’t have any money,” is a common question asked by students. Identity theft involves more than a lifted credit card number. Thieves use names, birth dates and social security numbers to open lines of credit, obtain loans and mortgages and even commit crimes. When the bill is due, the victim is responsible.
“The average victim of Identity theft spends 600 hours trying to recover,” says Scott Morrill, Project Manager for the Utah Attorney General’s Office during a presentation about Identity Theft on campus.
Several institutions only require two pieces of mail bearing a name and address to establish identity, and these are often found in the trash. Shredding private documents may not be enough; software is available to reconstruct even the most stubbornly crosscut bank statement.
The US department of justice recommends a proactive approach to preventing identity theft. Common sense ideas like checking finances regularly, checking for unauthorized charges or action on accounts and verifying that you are receiving monthly statements are all great ideas.
If you have been the victim of ID theft, let your banking and credit institutions know immediately. The state of Utah has a new tool to assist in recovery called the Identity Theft Reporting Information System. It is a user-friendly online resource that guides you through the process of reporting and validating the theft. For more information visit www.idtheft.utah.gov