Identity Theft Awareness
Defend yourself with knowledge, awareness, and detection.
Book the real Danny Lents to speak to your group about identity theft.
  

ID Theft Speaker

Almost 10 million Americans become victims of identity theft each year. I became a victim in 2001. I've researched identity theft extensively to protect myself and help others. I want to help you avoid this nightmare.

Your odds of becoming a victim are greatly reduced with knowledge, awareness, and detection. Take action now to avoid becoming the next identity theft victim.

Book the real Danny Lents to speak to your group about identity theft:

dlents@IdTheftAwareness.com

Seminar Flyer (pdf file)

Identity Theft and College Students

Identity thieves victimize almost 10 million Americans each year. Every classification of humans you can imagine are potential identity theft victims -- babies, the deceased, hospital patients, poor, middle-class, rich and even college students. Each group has a unique vulnerability. This article addresses issues that may affect college students. Please share this information with people you care about.

A T-Shirt for your Social Security Number?

Can you visualize this scene? A table located in the middle of a high-traffic area near a college campus. They're offering free T-shirts for completing a credit card application! There are plenty of unsuspecting people in line willing to provide their name, SSN, date of birth and driver's license number to complete a credit card application. For a T-shirt!??!!  Here are a few questions that should enter your mind:

  • What happens to my information?
  • Who will see it?
  • Will they copy it?
  • Will it be securely stored?
  • Are any "application collectors" working for identity thieves?
  • Is this a scam just to capture information?

There are too many risk factors in this situation. Walk away!

Be vigilant about protecting your digits. Your nine-digit social security number is the key to getting credit and identification documents in your name.

Student Records

Your university maintains records containing your sensitive personal identification information for many reasons. They need your identification data to update transcripts, process financial assistance paperwork, prepare tax reports, etc. University records have information that identity thieves crave -- SSN, date of birth, addresses. Ask your university about their data management policies. Inform university management if you're uncomfortable with their data security. Encourage others to share their concerns with management.

Good data management policies include:

  • Access to data is on a need-to-know basis for a limited number of authorized people with background checks revealing no criminal history.
  • Records are stored in a locked container/room.
  • Multiple forms of identification are required to release your information.
  • Release of data is entered in a log for auditing purposes.
  • Data should not be removed from the secured area on laptops, thumb drives or any other removable storage media. The data must be encrypted if it is absolutely necessary to transport data outside of the secured environment.
  • Records are completely destroyed by shredding or burning when they are no longer needed. Discarded computers must have data permanently erased from hard drives.
  • Social security numbers are not used as student IDs.
  • SSNs are not requested on forms unless absolutely required. Consider using unique student ID instead.
  • SSNs and other sensitive information are not spoken loud enough for others to hear.

Roommates ("Friendly Strangers")

Your identity thief may be someone that knows you -- your roommate, friends, friends of friends and maintenance personnel just to name a few. A 2005 BBB/Javelin study indicated that family and relatives along with friends and neighbors make up half of all known identity thieves.

You don't want to be so paranoid that you suspect everyone is trying to rip you off. However, you do want to take realistic steps to reduce exposure of your personal information. Take a few moments to look around your dorm room or apartment. Are all of these items locked up?

  • Forms with SSN, driver's license number, birth date
  • Checkbooks
  • Credit card, bank, and other statements with account information
  • Voter registration card
  • Bills
  • Anything with personally identifying data

Please store sensitive information in a locked file cabinet or other secure device.

Mail

Your mail provides many sources of information for your thief. Try to protect your mail and reduce the number of sensitive items that you receive.

Pick up your mail as soon as possible to reduce the odds of your thief getting it first. Put your out-going mail containing sensitive information in a U.S. Postal mailbox or take it to the post office.

Sign-up for online statements and bill-paying whenever possible and ask your creditors not to mail paper statements. Online monitoring of accounts significantly increases your ability to detect identity theft early. The 2005 BBB/Javelin study showed the average fraud amount was $551 dollars when victims detected fraud through online monitoring. Victims suffered $4,543 in fraud when depending on review of paper statements.

Submit a change of address to your post office a few weeks before you move. You want to ensure that your mail doesn't continue to show up at your old address after you're gone.

Buy a Shredder

Shred everything you don't want to share with your identity thief. If you're not sure, shred it. Your thief will gladly sort through your garbage looking for interesting information.

Buy a cross-cut shredder, not a strip-cut shredder. A dedicated thief will assemble strip-cut shreds. Encourage your friends to buy shredders too.

No one should start college without a shredder.

Job Applications

You're getting close to graduation. You've put in the hard work to earn your degree and you're ready to make some money.

You'll send hundreds of resumes to prospective employers, post resumes at online web sites, and complete several job applications. It's an exciting time, but be careful. There are identity thieves waiting to take advantage of your zeal to find a new career.

Be cautious about providing your bank account number, social security number, date of birth, gender, race, and any sensitive personal information. You'll eventually have to give your social security number to an employer, but wait until the deal is sealed and you're comfortable with the legitimacy of the employer.

There are scams where thieves post fake job ads. They contact you with a lucrative job offer but they need to conduct a background check first. Of course, they ask you to provide sensitive identification data. You want the job so you're tempted. Pay attention to the red flag that should have flashed before your eyes.

You can expect that some employers will want to conduct background checks. They will require sensitive information like your date of birth and SSN. Don't consider it unless you're convinced the company is legitimate and you're genuinely interested in working there.

Some employers will want to check your credit reports as part of their background checks. They have to get your written permission. You should get copies of your credit reports before you start job hunting to ensure accuracy.

Read an excellent job seeker's guide about employment background checks at this site .

Keep these ideas in mind when searching for a job.

  • Be wary of a job that's too easy to get and has simple requirements.
  • Don't give personal information over the phone or on your resume. Wait until you fill out an application during your interview and you've had an opportunity to research the company's legitimacy.
  • Don't pay money to get a job. Recruiters and staffing agencies normally charge employers to find you.
  • Don't pay money for work-at-home scams.
  • Report suspicious employment activities to the Better Business Bureau.

Here are a few other informative resources for job seekers.

U.S. Department of Education Info

This information is from the U.S. Department of Education web site

Scholarship Telemarketing Fraud Scheme!

The Office of Inspector General at the U.S. Department of Education has become aware of a potential fraud scheme involving persons claiming to represent the U.S. Department of Education who are calling students and offering them scholarships or grants. These callers request a bank or credit card account number saying the information will be used to charge a $249 processing fee. The Department of Education does not charge a processing fee to obtain federal education grants. DO NOT give your financial information to individuals making these claims! If you receive one of these calls, please contact the Office of Inspector General immediately (step 3). If you have provided bank or credit card information to the callers, you should take the following steps:

Telephone Solicitors (Pre-text Calling)

Most people have a difficult time not responding to a question. We have a natural tendency to answer and we're hesitant to appear rude. That's why simple questions are powerful data collection tools for the identity thief.

The telephone call seems innocent and legitimate, but the caller's goal is to collect information from you without raising your suspicions. Your address is not hard to get. He already has your telephone number. A social security number and your birth date would be nice to complete a credit card application in your name. The thief may collect your information over several phone calls to various people and businesses to stay "below the radar."

A bright red flag should be swiftly raised in your mind every time personal information is solicited from you. Legitimate businesses, banks, government agencies, etc will not ask for sensitive personal information that can be used by an identity thief.

Identity thieves have created ingenious schemes to trick people into revealing information. Hang up if you sense something is wrong. Inform others that may answer your phone about identity theft and pre-text calling.

Phishing

"Phishing" is a term that describes attempts to get someone to disclose personal information for the purpose of fraud or theft. The goal is to convince a target that they are communicating with someone who may have a legitimate need for the information.

A few classic examples are e-mails that claim to be from:

  • A bank or financial institution.
  • e-commerce sites.
  • Law enforcement attempting to gather personal info.

Normally these attempts will try to instill a sense of urgency to get you to respond. Common techniques include:

  • Your account has been compromised.
  • You are in trouble with the law.
  • Someone has already stolen your identity, credit card, etc... and you need to respond to prevent further theft.

You may be directed to a phony web site through a link provided by the thief. Avoid clicking links in an email. It's better to type a known address yourself. Visit www.antiphishing.org for more information about Phishing and Pharming.

Using Public Computers and Wi-Fi Hotspots

Public computers and Wi-Fi hotspots are convenient. You find them at libraries, coffee shops and universities to name just a few places. The convenience is nice but these computers are a potential source of data for your identity thief. Computers are not always secure. You don't know who's looking over your shoulder or uses the computer after you.

Don't enter sensitive information. A public computer is not a place to enter data like your credit card and social security numbers.

Here are a few ideas to consider.

  • Try to keep the screen and keyboard hidden from the view of others. Thieves use binoculars to observe data from a distance so be conscious of viewing areas above and behind you.
  • Always log off of web sites when you're finished instead of just closing the browser window.
  • Never accept the option to save your user name and password.
  • Disable the Auto Complete feature before you start using the computer.
    • With Microsoft Internet Explorer, click Tools then Internet Options. On Content tab, click Auto Complete and uncheck the four boxes.
  • Erase temporary files, history, and cookies before leaving.
    • With Microsoft Internet Explorer, click Tools then Internet Options. On the General tab, click Delete Files, Delete Cookies and Clear History buttons.

Despite your best efforts, you are still vulnerable to spy ware and key-logger software installed on the computer before you arrived. This software collects your keystrokes and can email them to the thief. Some of these programs are foiled by copy and paste techniques. For example to enter your password, open a large text file. Copy and paste each letter of your password from the text file and paste it in the browser window.

It makes more sense to completely avoid entering sensitive data in a public computer. Use it for web surfing and reading the news.

Your Personal Computer

Protect against prying eyes and unwanted use of your computer. Use strong passwords to deter use without your knowledge. Change your passwords frequently.

Social networking sites offer interesting opportunities to share with friends and family but you need to be cautious about the information you provide. Identity thieves work hard to gather lots of information about you. The thief's ability to use your identity is improved with each bit of personal information they can discover about you.

Avoid sharing information you don't want to share with your thief such as:

  • birth date
  • address
  • telephone numbers

Credit Card Offers

Forty-nine percent of college students receive credit card applications on a daily or weekly basis. Almost 30 percent of students throw out card applications without destroying them.

Nearly 30 percent of students rarely, if ever, reconcile their credit card and checking account balances.

Your identity thief counts on these facts to take advantage of you.

Credit card companies and banks pre-screen your credit reports before offering a pre-approved credit card offer. Those offers are dangerous. Your thief loves them. You can stop pre-approved credit card offers by opting out of credit report pre-screening through the following web address or telephone number.

You don't want your pre-approved credit card applications arriving after you have left your current apartment or house. Opt out today! It's free and available 24x7x365. Get more information at this site.

Order Your Free Reports

There is lot information collected about you. You probably know about the credit history reports maintained at the credit bureaus.

Did you know there are also "specialty reports" about your tenant history, medical information disclosed on life insurance applications, and your employment history just to name a few?

The FACT act has made many of these reports available to you for free. All Americans get one free credit report annually from each of the major credit bureaus. Visit www.ftc.gov/freereports for information from the Federal Trade Commission about free credit reports.

There are several "specialty reports" that you can also get for free. Visit www.IdTheftAwareness.com/id_theft_pages/QuickInfoReference.htm for more information.

Free Publications and Info

Free is always good, especially when the information can save you thousands of dollars and worrisome nights. Several free online resources about identity theft are available online. Check out this resource from the Federal Trade Commission at https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/topics/identity-theft and the Links page on this web site.

You can order free publications from the Federal Trade Commission to help inform other students.

Check out this article, How to Identify and Avoid Fraud Targeting College Students at StudySoup.

Conclusion

This information is brought to you from the real Danny Lents at www.IdTheftAwareness.com . Knowledge, awareness, and detection are key elements in the fight against identity theft. Please share this information with people you care about. Email me if you're interested in having a seminar at your location.