Office of Financial Aid & Scholarships

Identity Theft & Preventing Fraud

Identity theft occurs when someone steals your personal information (e.g., credit card number or social security number) and uses it fraudulently. Identity fraud is one of the nation's fastest growing crimes. Although most people are aware of it, research shows that consumers and businesses are not taking the necessary steps to fully protect themselves. The best way to fight fraud is to prevent it.

Identity Theft video

Identity Theft Facts:

  • Most stolen cards are used within 48 hours, so it is important to report a missing card immediately.

  • If someone steals your debit card and uses it, you could be responsible for up to $500. The Electronic Fund Transfer Act (EFTA) states the amount you're responsible for depends on when you report the loss.

  • Someone has their identity stolen every 4 seconds in the United States.

  • 60% of victims don't find out about the identity theft until 3 or more months after it occurs.

  • Victims spend anywhere from 6 months to several years recovering from identity theft.

How Does Identity Theft Happen?

  • Obtaining documents with your personal information (e.g., mail, insurance cards, Social Security card, Birth Certificate, personnel records from employees)

  • Stealing your wallet, purse, phone, or credit/debit card

  • Email or phone scams that encourage you to provide personal information

  • Social media

  • Malicious software

What Do Thieves Do With Your Personal Information?

Once they have your information, identity thieves can drain your bank account, use your credit card, open new accounts (e.g., credit cards, bank accounts, utility accounts), use your health insurance, file taxes in your name and get your refund, or they may even give your name to the police during an arrest.

How To Spot If Your Identity Has Been Stolen:

  • You start getting letters or bills in your name from companies with which you are not familiar. For example, a mobile phone in your name or letters regarding outstanding debts which are not yours.

  • You notice charges on a debit or credit card, which you did not make.

  • There are unfamiliar accounts or charges on your credit report.

  • You stop getting bills or statements you typically received on a regular basis.

  • You are refused a financial service, such as a credit card or a loan, despite having a good credit history.

  • The IRS notifies you that more than one tax return was filed in your name.

  • You receive notice that your information was compromised.

Tips For Preventing Identity Theft:

  • If you suspect that you are a victim of identity theft, visit to report fraud and create a recovery plan.  

  • Keep track of your credit and debit cards. If they are lost or stolen, report it immediately.

  • Never keep your personal identification number (PIN) on or near your card, and don’t share your PIN with anyone.

  • Store personal information securely

  • Don't give out personal information over the phone unless you have placed the call.

  • Check monthly statements and report errors within 60 days.

  • Never lend a debit or credit card to anyone.

  • Shred any documents with your account number or personal identification information.

  • When submitting payments through the internet, always check for the lock symbol or “https” on the menu bar.

  • Check your credit report at least once per year.