Identity theft strikes students

People between the ages of 18 and 29 are currently the most highly victimized when it comes to identity theft.

The Federal Trade Commission states that 26 percent of all identity thefts reported in 2004 came from people in this age group.

“Students should shred, not tear up or cut up, but shred all documents containing any kind of personal information,” Florida A&M University Police Department Crime Prevention Officer Sherri Luke said. “Students are susceptible because they get so many pre-approved credit card applications.”

According to, 49 percent of college students receive credit card offers on a regular basis. But 30 percent of those students throw away the credit card offers without destroying them, and nearly 30 percent of students rarely or never reconcile their credit card or checking account. also said 48 percent of students have their grades posted by social security number.

“I don’t give out my social, but some of my teachers post my grades by it,” said Jason Williams, 20, a third-year engineering student from Jacksonville. “Most teachers just pass back my test, so I don’t give out my social unless it’s necessary.”

The FTC defines identity theft as a time when someone uses your personal information without your consent to commit fraud. This information could include credit cards, social security numbers, applications or a cable bill.

Credit card theft was the most common among identity thieves last year, when more than 14,000 Floridians were victimized. Florida cities hosting the most victims were Miami, Orlando, Tampa, Jacksonville and Fort Lauderdale.

“I don’t really have a strategy to protect myself, but when I use my card I try to hide my pin,” said JaQuetta Whitfield, 20, a third year nursing and education student from Fort Lauderdale. “I try to angle my body or my hand to hide my pin number.”

Universities have taken a step to prevent students from being victims by changing student ID numbers to something other than their social.

Several universities have been in the news for loopholes in their system, which unknowingly released students’ information to hackers.

Various schools, such as New York University, the University of Georgia and the University of Texas, unintentionally exposed students’ personal information.

Some college students are more vulnerable to ID theft than others. For example, students who live in dorms constantly have personal information lying around.

“You may know your roommate, but you don’t know your roommate’s friends…or their friends,” Luke said.

A recent survey done by the Identity Theft Resource Center, a non-profit organization, said 11 percent of identity theft victims were victimized by relatives, 10 percent by roommates and five percent by co-workers.

Identities can be stolen through a number of breaches like obtaining a student loan, buying a new cell phone, opening a savings account, etc.

“Identity theft can really affect your life. It ruins your credit and steals what you worked so hard for,” Whitfield said. “It is really hard to clear that up and get it all back in order.”

Some students who are very concerned about identity theft have their own strategies to prevent being victimized.

“It is a concern of mine that someone would be so low as to take possessions and misuse and abuse what belongs to someone else for their own benefit,” said Melinda Richardson, a social work graduate student from Birmingham, “I do not buy things online, I shred old mail and I am cautious with who I reveal my personal information to.”

“Students should get a credit report every year; most websites will give one free report a year,” Luke said.

The FTC has authorized only one website to give people their one free credit report.

People wishing to redeem their free credit report should only go to to avoid becoming a victim of ID theft.

Contact Melissa McCartney at