Federal Trade Commission: College students face high risk of identity theft

Posted at 3:42 PM, Aug 24, 2016
and last updated 2016-08-24 21:52:12-04

Heading back to college after a summer with the parents or just being on your own for the first time in life is an exciting time.

But, it's not just students sharing in this excitement, so are criminals.

According to the Federal Trade Commission, they received roughly 490,000 complaints about identity theft in 2015. That was a 49 percent increase from 2014.

However, there was a statistic that stood out: households headed by people aged 18 to 24 were more likely to experience identity theft.

'Ultimately, this is the kind of situation where it's not a matter of if but when this is going to occur," said Eric Olson, consumer protection division director for Hillsborough County.

Olson called the population vulnerable because most are out on their own for the first time and doing things on their own for the first time.

"It's not necessarily something we are thinking about at that age," Olson explained.

USF graduate student Celia Farmer agrees.

"We are still venturing out and we have been with our parents for the past 18 years," said Farmer.

The criminology major told ABC Action News she has recently been the victim of identity theft. Someone made a duplicate of her debit card and made fraudulent charges.

"I was actually going to pay the rent at the place I live at and my card was declined," Farmer recalled.

Farmer's comments align with a more disturbing study conducted by Javelin Strategy and Research which found that 22 percent of students in 2014 were notified that they had been a victim of identity theft fraud after they were denied credit or contacted by a debt collector.

In comparison to average fraud victims, it is three times higher, market researchers noted.

While most students ABC Action News spoke with said they did check their bank account and credit card account balances daily, they don't check their credit reports regularly.

"I have never checked a credit report," said Aksahy Pital.

"Credit reports? Not so much as I should," admitted Abby Camacho.

"The only time I get my credit pulled is like whenever I like go to apply for something," Farmer said.

This is exactly what criminals are banking on--if you don't check your credit report regularly, you will not know if someone opened an account or credit car under your name.  Or, if they are using your private information for some other type of financial gain.

"College students especially need to be aware that their credit score are vulnerable, their reputation is vulnerable," Olson said.

Hillsborough County's consumer protection division is trying to increase their education outreach to young adults.

"We are focusing on younger than college students, high school aged, getting them aware," Olson said.

He added knowledge is power and being proactive can stop this crime before it happens.


Protect Your Numbers-Do not give your ATM pin code out to anyone.  Also, when at an ATM, be sure to shield the number and screen from those behind you. Don't carry your Social Security card at the same time you are carrying your license.  Leave your Social Security card in a secure place.

Don't Use Public Wifi-If you can access a public network, so can a criminal or hacker.   These connections are not secure.

Be Vague on Social Media-Social media posts are a gold mine for criminals when it comes to getting free information.  Don't trust social media and don't overshare.