What is Identity Theft
Identity theft occurs when someone uses your name or personal information, such as your Social Security number, driver’s license, credit card, telephone number or other account information without your permission. This information can be used to open credit accounts, bank accounts, telephone service accounts, or make major purchases – all in your name.
It is crucial for students to remain vigilant about cybersecurity threats and prioritize safeguarding their sensitive data. Mitigating the risk of identity theft involves actively monitoring bank accounts, securing electronic devices, and exercising caution whenever disclosing Social Security numbers. This guide focuses on understanding identity theft, tips for prevention, and resources for identity theft.
Tips for Preventing Identity Theft
- Protect your numbers and passwords | Don’t let anyone borrow your credit or debit card. Only provide your Social Security number when necessary and take precautions when entering PINs and passwords. This also means keeping your Federal Student Aid (FSA) ID private.
- Maintain secure password practices | Create strong, unique passwords for all accounts and store them securely. Use a mix of letters, numbers, and symbols.
- Enable Multi-Factor authentication | Multi-factor authentication (MFA) adds an extra layer of security to your online accounts. Even if a scammer were to steal your password, MFA protects your data by requiring a second factor, such as a smartphone push notification or PIN to access your data and your money.
- Know what to watch for | Watch out for scammers posing as banks, stores, or government agencies. Don't respond to requests for account verification or passwords; legitimate companies don't usually ask for this information.
- Use caution on the Web | When shopping online, check out a Web site before entering your credit card number or other personal information. Only enter personal information on secure Web pages that encrypt your data in transit. You can often tell if a page is secure if "https" is in URL or if there is a padlock icon on the browser window.
- Limit information sharing on social networks | Avoid oversharing personal details like your address, email, or birthdate to protect yourself from scams, phishing, and account theft.
- Connect to secure Wi-Fi networks | Connect to Wi-Fi networks that are password-protected and have a “lock” icon. Be cautious of using public Wi-Fi, especially when doing banking or other sensitive activity.
- Shred credit card receipts, junk mail, and other such documents | Shred documents with sensitive personal or financial information. Never leave these types of documents exposed in a public space (such as an office desktop). Only carry the credits cards you need and don't keep your social security card in your wallet.
- Keep your devices secure | Secure personal information on your devices with strong passwords. Update firewall, antivirus, and spyware protection regularly. Only download software from trusted sources and be cautious of links.
- Check your statements | Regularly review credit card bills and bank statements for unauthorized charges or withdrawals. Report any suspicious activity immediately.
- Ask questions | When asked for personal information, inquire about its usage, sharing practices, and security measures. If you’re not satisfied with the answers, don’t give your personal information.
Warning Signs to Watch Out For
- There are unexplained charges on your credit/debit card statement or withdrawals on your banking statement.
- Your monthly credit card statement, banking statement, or other bills stop coming.
- There are new bills for goods or services you never purchased.
- There are unexplained inquiries on your credit report.
- You are turned down for loans, credit cards, or other forms of credit for no apparent reason.
- Collection agencies are trying to collect payment from accounts that you didn’t open.
Additional Information & Resources
Below are some additional resources regarding identify theft.
- Enrollment Management | Additional university identity theft resources.
- Federal Trade Commission (FTC) | To file an identity theft report, visit the FTC's website or call their hotline at 1-877-FTC-HELP. The FTC provides guidance and assistance throughout the recovery process.
- Federal Student Aid | Students can read articles on how to protect their identity, avoid loan scams, and report fraud and student loan identity theft.
- Social Security Administration | Access this useful guide to protecting your Social Security number and reporting identity theft.
- U.S. Department of Education | In cases of education funds and student loan identity theft, you can also contact the U.S. Department of Education Office.
- Credit Reporting Agencies | Address credit reporting issues by contacting the three major credit reporting agencies: