Let’s face it: criminal activity is everywhere, and with the economy down, and unemployment not much better, more and more criminal activity is taking place. One of the most common acts of criminal activity is stealing, which may come as no news to you, however, thieves are becoming more and more creative with the ways they steal. Identity theft, a crime in which a person(s) steals the personal characteristics of another such as social security numbers, birthdate, address etc. by dumpster diving, impersonating phone calls, old fashion stealing etc. is a growing trend among criminals today. According to Privacyrights.org, in 2007 8.4 million Americans were a victim of identity theft.
As a victim of identity theft bills, or even medical bills, can be charged to your name – and all the creditors think you have point you’re probably wondering: “Why do I need to know this? I’m in college. I don’t even have credit yet,” or, “I’m responsible, I never leave my debit card anywhere and I’ve never been hacked on Facebook…” However, college students are common victims, because people they TRUST are the ones who steal from them i.e. a roommate, a friend, girlfriend etc. The most common ages for identity theft victims is 19 to 29…so statistically you are at a higher risk for ID theft than your parents!
What does the thief do with your identity? They use it to accumulate their own credit – for store purchases, utility authorized and will be responsible to pay the bill. Credit card accounts can be opened in your name and even government benefits can be given to your pseudo identity.
Student Legal Services urges you to take proper precautions to make sure your identity has not been stolen. These actions include: monitoring your bank accounts regularly, getting monthly bank statements, and checking your credit report regularly. Take immediate action if you get random phone calls from collection agencies, denial of credit, a bill from a purchase you never made, or a bill from an apartment that you never rented. These are key clues that someone is using your identity.
If you believe you are a victim of identity theft, take is the following actions:
(1) create an Identity Theft Affidavit with FTC,
(2) file a police report and ask that your FTC document is included with the report,
(3) get a copy of your credit report (check out our Student Money Management Instructions or watch this video for details),
(4) notify creditors of theft,
(5) call bank and FREEZE your cards/accounts, and
(6) place a fraud alert on your credit report.
It can take several months to correct your credit, and sometimes many attempts and follow ups with companies to get records corrected. Be diligent; saving your credit is a high priority that can affect many future decisions in your life.
Guarding your financial information, keeping your social security number confidential, memorizing your passwords and PIN numbers and changing them often, and posting minimum information on online social networks are all great ways to avoid identity theft. If you are a victim of identity theft, or you have seen evidence that your identity has been tampered with, please make an appointment with our office online or by phone (936-294-1717) and we would be more than glad to assist you in any way possible.