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Future Health

College Students, Protect Yourself from Identity Theft

October 19, 2020 

Identity theft is on the rise. It is essential that you protect your identity (even if you think you have nothing worth stealing). Once they have your information, they can take over your financial accounts, obtain medical treatment and file fraudulent tax returns. You then could be turned down for apartment rentals, credit cards, loans and possibly even a job. By taking proper precautions, becoming a victim of identity theft can be greatly reduced.

It is important to be aware of how a thief can access your information to protect it. Some common ways are:

  • Stealing your garbage or mail
  • Stealing your information from a business or medical office
  • Stealing your wallet or purse
  • Tricking you into sending information in an email (phishing scams). Phishing is when scam artists send fake text, email, or pop-up messages to get people to share their personal and financial information. For more information on phishing, check out the online safety section of this website

Some ways an identity thief can use your name and information:

  • buy things with your credit cards
  • get new credit cards
  • take out auto loans
  • open a phone, electricity, or gas account
  • steal your tax refund
  • get medical care
  • pretend to be you if they are arrested
  • file unemployment claims

Therefore, it is important to:

  • Lock dorm room or apartment doors when not at home
  • Never share account passwords with friends or roommates
  • Keep your passport and Social Security card in a secure place
  • Keep close track of credit and ATM/debit cards and never share PINs
  • Put a passcode on smartphones, computers and other electronic devices
  • Guard your financial information, including statements and account numbers
  • Keep bank statements and other important documents in a secure place and shred before discarding
  • Review banking statements frequently

Here are some clues that someone has stolen your information:

  • You see withdrawals from your bank account that you can’t explain
  • You don’t get your bills or other mail
  • Merchants refuse your checks
  • Debt collectors call you about debts that aren’t yours
  • You find unfamiliar accounts or charges on your credit report
  • Medical providers bill you for services you didn’t use
  • Your health plan rejects your medical claim because records show you’ve reached your benefits limit
  • A health plan won’t cover you because your medical records show a condition you don’t have
  • The IRS notifies you that more than one tax return was filed in your name, or that you have income from an employer you don’t work for
  • You get notice that your information was compromised by a data breach at a company where you do business or have an account

If your wallet, Social Security number, or other personal information is lost or stolen, there are steps you can take to help protect yourself from identity theft.

According to, if someone is using your personal information to open new accounts, make purchases or get a tax refund you should:

Step 1: Call the companies where you know fraud occurred, explain that someone stole your identity, ask them to close or freeze your accounts then change your logins, passwords, and PINS for your accounts.

Step 2: Place a fraud alert. A fraud alert is free and will make it harder for someone to open a new account in your name. To do so, contact one of the three credit bureaus (the one company must tell the other two). You will receive a letter from each credit bureau confirming a fraud alert has been placed on your file.

Step 3: Get your credit report. Contact Annual Credit Report (1-877-322-8228) or one of the three credit bureaus directly.

  • Equifax:                                                                                800-525-6285 or
  • Experian:                                                                             888-397-3742 or
  • TransUnion:                                                                        800-680-7289 or

Step 4: Report identity theft to The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) where students can notify the government of the crime. The FTC does not have criminal jurisdiction, but it supports the criminal investigation and prosecution through its Identity Theft Data Clearinghouse — the nation's repository for identity theft complaints.

Step 5: File a report with your local police department.

For more detailed information and next steps visit is the federal government's one-stop resource for identity theft victims. The site provides streamlined checklists and sample letters to guide you through the recovery process.