The threat of identity theft
Identity theft occurs when someone uses another's personally identifying information, like a name, social security number, password, or credit card information, without their permission, to commit fraud or other crimes.
In order to steal someone's identity, an identity thief needs to have some information about the prospective victim. Such information could include the victim's:
- Social Security Number,
- date of birth,
- place of birth,
- mother's maiden name,
- drivers license number,
- credit card numbers,
- bank account numbers.
Armed with this information, an identity thief can open credit card accounts, obtain loans, make purchases, etc., all in the victim's name.
The U.S. Department of Education has created a website to help college students avoid credit card fraud and other forms of identity theft. The site describes:
- the identity theft threat,
- steps to reduce your risk,
- what you can do if you become a victim,
- the school's responsibility in protecting identities, and
- scholarship scams.
If you suspect that your personal information has been compromised and misused to commit fraud or theft, act immediately in contacting the fraud departments of each of the three major credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Close the accounts that you know or believe have been tampered with or opened fraudulently. Finally, file a police report with your local police or the police in the community where the theft took place.