Keep your ID secure

Cody Francis

‘Paying attention’ is the first key step

Todd Davis’ Social Security number is 457-55-5462.

Davis, CEO of LifeLock identity theft protection agency, is confident that using his company will protect him from identity theft even with his Social Security number on television and the Internet.

For college students, the $10 monthly fee or the $110 annual fee may not be affordable or worthwhile. However, Carol Crimi, senior staff attorney for Student Legal Services, said students should try to watch what they do with their personal information to protect themselves from identity theft.

She said students “simply paying attention to what they do” is the first step in preventing identity theft.

“Just be careful with what you do with your information” she said. “If you are at an ATM, it’s important to make sure you walk away with your card.”

That may prove to be more difficult than expected. Brian Heavilin, junior biology major, said he has had problems with the Huntington ATM next to Bowman Hall.

“I’ve stood there for five minutes before waiting for it to give me my card back,” Heavilin said.

The machine sometimes returns cards promptly, but takes time before asking “Would you like another transaction?”

Crimi said most identity theft incidents occur within families.

“The majority of identity theft cases are when a family member is using your credit without your knowledge,” Crimi said.

One of the other most common ways it occurs in this era is by Internet scams and “phishing,” she said.

“A big problem is students unwittingly clicking things online,” she said. “Some people really have to pay attention to what they click. Make sure you read everything carefully.”

Kent State combats some of this by providing its Internet users with McAfee VirusScan Enterprise, but this cannot protect from all online scams.

Crimi said anyone who makes purchases online should go by the old phrase “buyer beware” because it is sometimes hard to tell who you are giving your information to. Pop-up blockers and virus protection programs do not always protect against the exchange of personal information with scam agencies.

Both Crimi and Jeri Grier, a spokeswoman for Huntington Bank, said the best way to protect against identity theft is to check credit reports and check them often. Crimi said there are three online credit agencies that are required to provide people with one free report annually upon request.

“Credit reports should be checked periodically,” Crimi said. “It’s just a good practice nowadays.”

She said it is possible to check credit up to every four months if students cycle between the three Web sites.

Grier said there are also more options to protect against identity theft.

“With the technology now, you can check up on bank accounts via Internet or even with your cell phone,” she said. “These are resources you can use on a regular basis.”

If a student finds out they have already been a victim of identity theft, the first thing they should do is report it to the police and their bank as well as place a ‘fraud alert’ on their credit reports.

“The sooner you report, the sooner you can be reimbursed,” Grier said.

Not all Web sites can be trusted, but for additional protection, Grier said, Huntington Web sites, like many other banking sites, have special encryption to protect identities when doing online banking.

As far as reimbursement procedures go, Huntington offers a “zero liability” program for debit card purchases that require a signature.

And as for the Huntington ATM next to Bowman Hall, Grier said she had never heard a complaint about an ATM with that problem. At about 10 a.m. yesterday, another Huntington representative said maintenance workers should be on the scene within 48 hours to take a look at the machine.

Contact safety reporter Cody Francis at [email protected].