Identity theft serious threat to college students

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In light of recent security breaches nationwide, professionals are starting to wonder if threats to individuals’ identity are being considered.

In 2014, 22% of students found their identity had been compromised after being denied credit or while being contacted by a debt collector according to Javelin Strategy and Research. The Federal Trade Commission also addressed almost 400,000 identity thefts complaints in 2016 alone.

Last semester, Dixie State University students on media scholarships had their identities breached as personal information was accidentally published on Google through the scholarship application page. Although student information such as names, Dixie ID numbers, phone numbers, dates of birth, email addresses, mailing addresses, classes, majors, GPAs, and important documents such as resumes and curriculum vitaes were available online for only a week, Google did not completely take down personal information stored and cached until almost two months after.

In September, CNN reported an Equifax breach accidentally released 143 million Americans’ personal information, becoming the biggest data breach in history. It also reported Yahoo.com had about 500 million accounts had been stolen in September, but a second breach had affected almost 1 billion accounts.

“I have to be honest, I thought about [identity theft] the same way you think about the boogeyman,” said Caroline Nielson, a junior biology major from Heber City. “It was always something you heard about but never something you thought was real.”

Nielson said her personal information was compromised over the summer, leaving her identity and bank account vulnerable. She said someone had gotten his or her hands on her debit card information, and the hundreds of dollars she had been planning to use and save for the next two weeks seemingly vanished.

Nielson also said this has been an eye-opening experience.

“I’m so used to plugging my information in online without a second thought, but you wouldn’t willingly give your [information] out to strangers on the street,” she said. “It has definitely made me more aware of where my information is going and what is considered safe.”

Emma Wilding, a senior theater major from Enterprise, said although she had always been safe with her personal information, she didn’t realize how easily information could be stolen and used.

“When I got married over the summer, so many [documents] had to be changed and all of it was fanned out around me,” Wilding said. “I hadn’t realized how much information could be used against you, until I had it all laid out in front of me.”

Wilding said she uses Experian Identity Theft and Credit Protection to keep her information safe and know when her information has been breached. She said this has been one of the biggest ways she’s been able to keep personal data out of the wrong hands.

“There are so many security sites and programs you could use, and it’s something so simple to do that can save you hundreds of dollars and months of stress,” Wilding said.

DSU implemented a program coordinated by information security officer Andrew Goble to help students safeguard information. DSU Policy 463 also outlines what is considered confidential and what is done to ensure personal remains personal.

A few ways students can protect personal information include avoiding public or unrestricted wireless internet, filter the information posted on social media, be aware of when and where important documents are if mailed, and only share PIN numbers and other valuable codes with those who need to know.

“Information is constantly at our fingertips,” said Brynna Tanner, a junior psychology major from Phoenix said. “One Google search and you can learn a lot about a person, and it’s hard to safeguard against it.”

Tanner said with the latest updates in technology, each individual’s identity is more at risk.

“Face scanners, Apple pay, everything is online,” Tanner said. “Knowing where and when you are giving out information is essential.”