Sunday, September 12, 2004

Article: Half of US universities use SSN as student identifier, leaving students vulnerable to ID theft

According to the September 6, 2004 edition of US News and World Report, American college students are particularly vulnerable to identity theft, primarily because universities and colleges are use social security numbers as student identifiers:

U.S.News & World Report Archive: Lessons in privacy (9/6/04)

"Students may go to college to study, but there's something many don't learn about until it's too late: identity theft. A growing peril in the electronic age, this particular brand of banditry usually entails stealing someone's identity by using his or her personal financial information--name, Social Security number, date of birth, and the like--to apply for new credit cards and loans. The victim isn't accountable for most of the money stolen but still must deal with the major headache of erasing bogus accounts from his credit record and doing battle with collection agencies. According to the Federal Trade Commission, close to 10 million Americans fell victim to identity theft last year, a 41 percent increase from 2002.

Financially inexperienced college students are particularly vulnerable. That's because roughly half of all colleges use Social Security numbers as student identifiers, and many post grades by ID number. And it's the Social Security number that unlocks the door to a credit history. "My advice to students is to be aware that you're in a high-risk environment," says Ed Mierzwinski, a consumer advocate with the U.S. Public Interest Research Group in Washington, D.C. "And be prepared to fight identity theft hard when it hits."

US News won't make the full text available until two weeks after publication, but check back ...

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