Identity Theft Leading You to Places You’ve Never Been

By John Stran 

Starting college and journeying through an academic career oftentimes requires distributing an abundance of personal information.

From making copies of information for student loans to creating copious passwords and anything in between, a student’s personal information can spread through web servers all over a campus.

When applying for next semester, taking out a car loan or applying for a job, there’s no way around distributing these personal details. Other times, personal precautions can be made.

Chris Wentz, associate director and information security officer at Youngstown State University, said oftentimes people give out personal information because they trust the person or website.

In an ever-growing digital world, users may become more complacent, not fearing what a touch of the screen or click of a mouse can lead to.

This may be a reason why, according to the Federal Trade Commission, people in the 20 to 29 age range are the most targeted for identity theft, meaning many college students are prime targets.  

“College students are at a point in their lives where lots of people want and need their information, so they are fairly used to giving it out,” said Monica Merrill, a professor in the criminal justice and forensic science department at YSU.

Susan Beiling, bursar in YSU’s bursar’s office, said she receives phishing emails daily telling her to reset a password by clicking a link. She always ignores them, but wonders if students may be more apt to click the link.

“Perpetrators are becoming more and more knowledgeable on how to make these emails look professional,” Beiling said.  

Merrill added lack of credit history as a reason why students are prime targets saying no past activity makes it harder for companies to recognize any fraudulent or irregular behavior.

Wentz also described the importance of this history and said banks pick up on the spending habits of their customers and can notice when a transaction was made at place not frequented by the customer.  

As stealing information online and as all cybercrime increases, Wentz said it’s still important to note personal information on paper can still be stolen and be just as damaging.

According to IMPACT Solutions, on average, identity theft costs its victims 60 hours and $1,000 to recover their identity and repair their credit record.

Through all the chaos that identity theft can create, Wentz said the beauty lies in the simplicity of one’s ability to protect their personal information. Protecting personal information is generally much easier than stealing it.

“There are small things you can do to prevent identity theft such as not paying your bills on public Wi-Fi networks and being wary of giving out your social security number,” Merrill said.

Wentz advised to never call back any numbers claiming a bill is overdue and to call the actual bill provider and ask whether or not the information is true. Along with this, he suggests to shred any extra documents and delete all information on a personal laptop if deciding to sell or give to a friend.

Both Wentz and Merrill also suggest requesting credit reports.

“The Fair Credit Reporting Act allows you to get one free credit report per year from each of the three reporting agencies,” Merrill said. “This way you can check and see if there are any accounts you were unaware of or credit checks you did not request but this is only useful to you if you are aware of it and use it.”

If identity thieves are savvy enough to capture personal information, identity theft recovery plans are in place to help take back what’s rightfully yours.

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