Identity theft workshop aims to keep students and faculty safe

Kimberly Krieger

Daniel Foster, crime prevention coordinator speaks to faculty about preventing identity theft at the Department of Police Services Wednesday March 24.

The Department of Police Services held an identity theft prevention workshop Wednesday in the department’s training room, outlining the various ways to detect and deter identity theft.

Crime prevention coordinator Daniel Foster said identity theft occurs when someone uses a person’s information to commit fraud or other crimes.

“Theft prevention is not leaving property unattended, limiting what you carry in your wallet or your purse and taking advantage of the free credit report,”  Foster said.

Foster, who presented the workshop, added that this is the fastest growing crime in the United States, and about 10 million Americans have their identities stolen every year.

“It is my job to teach people how to prevent (themselves) from becoming a victim,” Foster said.

Students should be aware of phishing, which is an electronic scam that asks for personal information under the guise of a trustworthy Web site or e-mail, Foster said. Along with this, Foster added that students are still being scammed into depositing fraudulent checks.

“It may be an older scheme, but it does still occur,” Foster added.

A thief could also change the address of a credit card offer and open up accounts under a victim’s name, Foster said. Some thieves also steal people’s names in order to commit crimes.

“You could have warrants for a crime you never committed,” Foster said.

Professor Joel Leach, Music Industry Studies, came to the workshop because his credit card information was stolen before.

“I am always fearful of identity theft,” Leach said. “I’m just trying to prevent problems.”

Banks are usually very good about fraudulent charges, Leach added, and the bank notified him almost immediately when he received strange charges on his cards.

“I’m pretty impressed that they can do it this fast,” Leach said.

Foster said that there is a device called a Skimmer or Wedge, which is a handheld device a thief can use to copy credit card information.

“It just looks like a regular credit card reader, and you really won’t know the difference when you’re swiping your cards,” Foster said.

Victoria Branch, a Tseng College of Extended Learning staff member, came to the event after having an identity issue recently. Branch said that someone from Tennessee charged over $700 dollars on her credit cards.

“Normally when you get a non-customary charge, the bank will call you, but they didn’t for this one,” Branch said. “I was kind of shocked.”

During the workshop, Branch mentioned that social security numbers are also written on Medicare cards, and this could easily result in identity theft.

“(Baby) boomers are aging, and something has to be done about this,” Branch said.

Branch added that she would like to inform the public about the dangers of having a social security number on a medical card.

“It is very dangerous,” Branch said. “We really have to start a movement.”

Hamid Jahangard, program coordinator for the University Student Union, attended the workshop upon receiving e-mails about it. Jahangard said that he wanted to get more information on how to prevent identity theft, because it is a big issue.

“When something (seems) safe and secure, you should really look twice,” Jahangard said.

Jahangard added that he has never had his identity stolen before, and he hopes it never happens.

“Consider what you are carrying in your wallet,” Foster said. “There is no reason to be carrying around your social security card.”

Foster added that when asked for a social security card, it is important for a person to ask why it is needed.

When a person does not receive any bills in the mail, or when there are unexpected bills and credit card statements, Foster said that this could be a sign of identity theft. The average out-of-pocket expense for identity theft victims is about $500, Foster added.

“I don’t want to see any more victims,” Foster said.