Identity theft is one of the most pervasive crimes in the United States, and virtually anyone can be victimized.
The U.S. Department of Justice and Javelin Strategy and Research find that an average of 11.5 million Americans are victims of identity fraud annually — and a plurality of them are college students.
Brighton junior Drew McCarthy has had his identity stolen. McCarthy said he first noticed something was wrong when a $1,200 Trijicon scope was shipped to his address from Cabela’s.
“(The scope) was addressed to me, but I was positive I didn’t order anything,” McCarthy said. “First thing I did was check my bank account. The next day, I spent hours with Cabela’s customer care to find out a MasterCard was used with my name and a fake ID with my name and address. The next couple days, I was in contact with MasterCard and they were able to tell me that the card was opened through Fifth Third Bank.”
McCarthy said he was relieved when Fifth Third Bank officials told him they lacked any Social Security number with any of McCarthy’s accounts or cards in their banking system.
Nevertheless, he said it was a frightening experience.
“I still was wondering why that man went through all the trouble getting my info,” McCarthy said. “I was startled to find out that the officials at MasterCard believed it could have been someone I knew or someone camping outside of my house trying to intercept the package.”
Although McCarthy’s case ended with him returning his scope without his personal credit being affected, Independent Bank Loss Prevention Manager Anna Sperling said this is not always the case.
She emphasized the importance for anyone, but especially college-aged individuals, to take fraud-preventing measures.
“I would say younger individuals are typically targeted, but anybody who has been assigned a Social Security number is at risk for identity theft,” Sperling said. “It’s really important for individuals of all ages to own their identity and monitor their credit.”
Sperling said keeping track of any document, piece of paper or computer software that contains a Social Security number, passport, bank statements or driver’s license is important.
Sperling highlighted some basic tips for college students, including password-protecting all electronic devices, logging out of all applications, checking banking activity regularly and remaining signed in to certain websites.
At a time when many individuals are exploring their identities, Sperling said it was important that college students do not have it stolen.
“I think that many college-aged individuals are discovering their identities, but that identity has nothing to do with their Social Security number,” Sperling said. “They’re preoccupied with friends, school, work and other activities and haven’t given much thought to their financial security.
“Bottom line is, if somebody is approaching you with an opportunity to make a quick buck that involves turning over your checking account number, ATM card or debit card, it’s definitely not a type of situation you want to get yourself in. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”