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Tag: identity theft

Identity Theft 101

It seems as if every couple months there is a major company that announces a data breach that compromises hundreds of thousands of customers. Having your identity or credit card information stolen can lead to a long, tedious, and stressful recovery. While it is not possible to completely protect yourself from identity theft, it is helpful to understand tips on guarding your personal information, ways to spot fraudulent behavior, and how to recover your identity.

How to Protect Your Information

Our current electronic world makes it much easier for people to steal sensitive information.  However, not everything is taken only online.  It is important to remember to keep your paper documents and credit cards secure, as well as any activity on the web.  First, don’t carry unnecessary documents with you such as social security cards or passports.  Next, shred any records or statements that contain personal information such as your social security number or bank account information. It is still common for thieves to go through your curbside trash or snatch lost wallets.

The most common information stolen these days is credit card data.  This can be done a number of different ways so it is important to always be aware when you are using your cards.  Thieves can be anyone, even the waitress that takes your card behind the counter and swipes it through a “skimmer.” These are small devices that capture and store your card’s information to be used later, or sold.  Be on the lookout for card readers at ATM’s, checkout counters, or gas stations that look to be tampered with.  Devices can be attached inside of the readers that again store your all of your card’s information.  When using your credit or debit card online make sure that the website is reputable and secure.  Always make sure you have functioning identity theft programs installed on your computer that prevent malware and spyware.  These are types of viruses that can get into your computer and steal personal information, credit card and bank account numbers, and passwords.  As a rule of thumb, check to see if the website begins with https, which means it is secured, rather than http which is not.

How to Spot Fraudulent Behavior

Fraudulent behavior can be spotted by staying up to date and in tune with your credit reports, and bank and credit card statements. Look for charges or withdrawals that you did not make. You are entitled to a free credit report each year on annualcreditreport.com. It is recommended you check every year to ensure full coverage. First, confirm your personal information is correct, then look to make sure all of the accounts in your name are accurate. Next, see if there have been any inquiries under your name by companies you haven’t contacted. Another great way to spot irregularity on your accounts is to sign up for alerts and notices when certain transactions take place, such as outside of the US, online, or above a certain amount. Your bank should also contact you if they think there is suspicious activity associated with your account.

What to do if Your Identity is Stolen

  1. Call the companies where the fraudulent activity occurred. Explain to them that it was not you that made the transaction/opened the account/etc. Ask them to freeze or close your accounts so that no more wrongful transactions can occur.
  2. Contact one of the three credit bureaus (they will contact the other two) and ask for a fraud alert. This will make it harder for someone to open an account in your name. Next, pull your credit report and make note of any discrepancies.
  3. Contact the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and complete an online complaint form. Print and save your form.
  4. Contact local law enforcement and file a police report that someone stole your identity. Take with you all documentation of the incident.

Next you will want to remove the bogus charges or information off your accounts and credit reports.  Although this can be a frustrating process it is important to remember fraudulent behavior can be reversed.








Brady Heidrick

Peer Counselor II

Powercat Financial Counseling


Protect Yourself from Identity Theft

According to the Federal Trade Commission, young adults 18 to 29 make up the largest proportion of identity theft victims. That’s a frightening statistic, and one that Kansas State students need to be aware of. Here are some tips to help protect you from identity theft.

Shred everything. One of the many ways that identity thieves can acquire information is through dumpster diving. If you are throwing out bills, credit card statements, ATM receipts, or even junk-mail solicitations for credit cards and mortgages, you may be leaving too much information lying around. Buy a personal shredder and shred all papers with personal information on them before disposing of them.

Destroy digital data. When you sell or dispose of a computer or a hard drive, you need to take extra steps to ensure the data is completely destroyed. Just deleting the data or reformatting the hard drive is not enough. Someone with a little tech skill can easily restore files or recover data from a formatted drive. Use a hard drive erasing software to make sure that any personal information stored on hard drives is completely destroyed.

Pay your bills at the post office. Never leave your paid bills in your mailbox to be sent out. A thief who raids your mailbox would be able to acquire much of your critical information in just one envelope- your name, address, credit account number, your bank information including the routing number and account number from the bottom of the check, and a copy of your signature from your check for forgery purposes. Drop your bills at the post office or at least in an official drop box to ensure that this doesn’t happen.

Protect your Social Security number. You should never use your Social Security Number as any part of a username or password that you create and you should never give it to telephone solicitors or in response to spam emails. Knowing your full name, address and full Social Security Number, or even just the last 4 digits in many cases, can let someone assume your identity.

Analyze your credit report annually. It is possible to get a free look at your credit report once per year. The big three credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion) joined forces to provide free credit reports to consumers. The web site is annualcreditreport.com. You should review it to make sure the information on it is accurate and also make sure that there aren’t any accounts on there that you aren’t aware of or any other suspicious activity.

Jamie Engelken
Peer Counselor II
Powercat Financial Counseling

Protect Yourself From Identity Theft: Top Ten Tips

Identity theft is a growing problem in our society today. In fact, throughout 2006, 8.4 million Americans were victims of identity theft.  Identity theft occurs when an individual’s personal information is stolen, allowing the thief to take on the identity of the individual to commit theft or fraud. In order for someone to steal another individual’s identity, they only need three key pieces of information: another individual’s full name, birthday, and social security number.  Therefore, these are three personal assets that all persons should work harder to protect, especially college students.

College students who fall into the age range of 18-24 years old are the most likely victims of identity theft. The reasons for this are that individuals in this age range are less likely to monitor their credit closely, use spyware, and shred documents that contain personal financial information. All of these mistakes are to the advantage of the thieves who use these common techniques to commit identity theft. These facts confirm that protecting one’s identity is more important now than ever. Therefore, listed below are the top ten ways you can be proactive in the fight against identity theft.

  1. Pay attention to your billing cycles. If you notice some of your mail is missing, this could be a red flag that you have been a victim of identity theft.
  2. Always shred important documents that contain information including: social security number, credit card account numbers, or bank account numbers.
  3. Guard your credit cards and other personal information by not carrying unnecessary identity information in a purse or wallet, i.e., your Social Security card.
  4. Do not use obvious passwords.
  5. Be aware of e-mail scams and never download files or click on links sent by strangers.
  6. Be sure to update your computer’s virus protection software regularly.
  7. Before getting rid of an old computer, destroy the hard drive and use a “wipe” software program.
  8. Review your credit card statements and telephone bills for unauthorized use. If you suspect fraud, call the company immediately.
  9. Order a credit report routinely using www.annualcreditreport.com.
  10.  If you’re a victim of identity theft, report the crime to the police immediately.

Identity theft can be prevented. Therefore, use these tips to stay proactive about protecting your identity. If you would like more information about identity theft, or help looking at your credit report, you can make an appointment with Powercat Financial Counseling at www.k-state.edu/pfc.


Anna Govert
Peer Counselor II
Powercat Financial Counseling