Identity theft is a growing problem, and unfortunately students are one of the primary groups targeted.
Please note much of the information on this page is provided by or linked to the Federal Trade Commission website identitytheft.gov to keep current
- What Is Identity Theft?
- What Are Signs of Identity Theft?
- How Are Students Commonly Targeted?
- What Are Signs of a Phishing Attack (via email)?
What Should I Do if I Got Hooked by a Phishing Attack?
- How Can I Protect Myself?
- What Should I Do if My Identity Is Stolen?
- What Should I Do if My Personal Information Is Lost or Stolen?
- What Should I Do if My Email Account Gets Hijacked?
How Can I Protect My Personal Devices?
What Is Identity Theft?
Identity theft is when someone else:
- Uses your personal information by saying they are you
- Social Security Number, Medicare or insurance, credit card, bank account...
- Runs up bills in your name
- Charges to your credit cards, use of your debit card...
- Gets credit in your name
- Signs up for new credit cards, purchases a car, buys a house...
- Receives medical care in your name
- Uses your insurance or Medicare at the doctor or to purchase prescriptions...
- Uses your automobile, rental, or house insurance in your name
- Files taxes in your name using your Social Security Number
What Are Signs of Identity Theft?
- There is a transaction you don't recognize on your credit card or bank statement. You are notified there are unusual charges on your account. Beware: Often scammers attempt small amounts first to test the waters before going for a big purchase.
- Your credit card, debit card, or check is refused at the store even though you know there is money available. Someone may have overdrawn your account.
- You are contacted about accounts you didn't open - debt collectors call, you receive bills for something you didn't purchase...
- Inaccurate information shows on your credit report, resulting in denied credit. - delinquent accounts or accounts you didn't open...
- You stop receiving bills you expect. This may mean someone has changed your contact information or has stolen your mail.
- You receive medical bills unexpectedly for doctor's appointments you didn't have.
- Your insurance won't cover you because your medical records show a condition you don't have.
- Your insurance refuses your claim because they say you've reached your limit. This may be a sign someone has been charging to your insurance or health savings plan.
- You're unable to file your federal or state income taxes. The IRS usually notifies you that more than one tax return was filed in your name or you have income from an employer you don't work for.
How Are Students Commonly Targeted?
- Scammers will call students in an attempt to get money or personal information. Often they say they are from the FBI, IRS or your personal bank to try to scare students into making a mistake. Visit Defend Your Data for more on what to do about phone scams.
- Scammers attempt to get close to see your password or PIN information when you're checking out at a store or using an ATM. Even the sensitive information in your mail is at risk.
- Common theft - stealing your wallet or purse
- Hackers will pull your credit card information from online accounts, public WiFi, or websites that aren't secure.
- Hackers can also pull your credit card information by walking by you and scanning your cards - even when they're in your wallet!
- Skimmers can set up devices which record your card information when you use the ATM or gas station pump.
- Salespeople run your card multiple times at stores or secretly swipe your card onto a personal digital card reader.
- "Dumpster divers" will go through your garbage to try to get personal or account information from your paperwork - credit card bills, utility bills, junk mail, insurance, or bank statements.
"Work at home" scams
How Can I Protect Myself?
- Never use public WiFi for anything that needs your password (bank or credit card accounts, or accounts with your banking, credit, or personal information linked).
- Do not carry your Social Security card.
- Shred documents that have sensitive or personal information.
- Monitor your accounts and set up notifications of charges. You can monitor your credit report at annualcreditreport.com.
- Tip: You can check the three agencies at Annual Credit Report for free once a year. To check it more frequently, check a different agency every four months. For example, check TransUnion in January, Equifax in May, and Experian in September. You're still getting a free one from each agency once a year. By spreading it out instead of checking all three agencies in January, now you're checking it every four months.
- Monitor your accounts and set up notifications of charges.
- Keep virus and malware protection up to date on your computer.
- Use secure websites.
- Beware of emails and attachments (phishing schemes).
- Beware of "too good to be true." Offers that invite to cash a check , keep part, then send money from your account are usually a scam. So are offers of "enhanced" internet at WVU.
- If someone calls you asking for sensitive information or payment, do not give either! Thank them for the notice, then call the business back at the number you find on their website to confirm if this is legitimate. Visit Defend Your Data for more on what to do about phone scams.
- Passwords: Create strong passwords. Do not give them to anyone or leave them where someone can find them. More tips on passwords can be found at Defend Your Data.
- Don't leave your mail in the mailbox for too long.
- Don't overshare on social networking sites (Facebook, Twitter, etc.)
- Clear data from electronics (computers, phones) before discarding.
- Use RFID wallets which can help prevent scammers from skimming your credit card information.
What Should I Do if My Identity Is Stolen?
- Act fast! The sooner you shut it down, the better.
- Notify the security departments of any involved creditors or financial institutions, and close any accounts that were opened fraudulently.
- File a police report with local police or with police in the community where the fraud took place.
- Report the incident to the Federal Trade Commission. They will also help you set up a recovery plan.
- Contact the fraud departments of the three major credit reporting agencies and request that one of them place a “Fraud Alert” in your credit file.
- The three major credit reporting agencies:
- What is a fraud alert and how long does it last?
It's a flag credit reporting agencies put in your file to instruct creditors to take extra precautions when opening accounts or issuing credit, such as additional verification of your identity. This can slow down the credit application process, but can protect your credit. There are two types:
- An initial alert lasts for 90 days
- An extended alert lasts for seven years.