Risk of identity theft a problem at university level

Every 79 seconds someone in the United States becomes a victim of identity theft, according to the Federal Trade Commission.

Are students at the University of Miami aware they are at risk?

Identity theft is the process by which someone steals any personal information, then uses it illegally for his or her own puposes. Because the FTC has ranked Miami as No. 4 on a list of cities with the most identity theft nationally, the university urges students to keep personal information secure.

John P. Pepper, crime prevention coordinator, said identity theft can happen easily if someone’s name, Social Security number and date of birth are stolen.

“Even with an incorrect address these thieves can do massive damage,” Pepper said.

The two main types of identity theft are “account takeover,” which occurs when a thief acquires a person’s existing credit account information to make purchases, and “application fraud,” also known as “true name fraud.” The latter type of identity theft occurs when a thief uses a person’s SSN to open new accounts in that person’s name. The victim is usually unaware of the fraud for a long time because statements will be sent to the thief and not the victim.

UM Police Chief David Rivero said that although only four identity thefts occurred on campus last year, compared with 10 million nationally, there were still 48 incidences of theft of personal identifying materials, which can lead to identity theft.

“There is nothing worse than a student who just graduated and is seeking a job and has to explain why his or her credit is ruined,” Rivero said. “This doesn’t go over well at the job interview.”