Financial author and radio host Dave Ramsey, who frequently hears from ID-theft victims on his call-in show, came to The Early Show Tuesday to explain why students are more likely to encounter this problem, and offer advice to parents and students about preventing it.
Every college student and parent is familiar with the booths on campus or in the student union, tempting kids to sign up for credit cards. But, warns Ramsey, credit cards and college students can be a bad combination.
Signing up for a card in exchange for a free T-shirt turned into a big problem for Kim from Tennessee, who then wrote to Ramsey:
"My third day at college, I applied for several credit cards on campus. Five years later, I found out that all my personal information was posted on a Web site. I had cars bought in my name and credit accounts across the country. A college student who ran one of the credit card booths was responsible for posting my information. Even though I now have a new Social Security number, I constantly have to monitor my credit reports. I have had to explain all of this to employers who run background checks on me. Those free T-shirts wound up costing me $150,000!"
Unfortunately, Ramsey observed, college students and campuses are big targets of identity thieves. The Federal Trade Commission discovered that 31 percent of identity-theft victims fall into the 18-29 age group. Last December, UCLA reported that hackers accessed the school's database, which contained personal information on about 800,000 current and former students and staff. While that was one of the largest such incidents, similar scenarios happen regularly at universities across the country. Schools are a logical target: There are many different offices and computers with this information that can be hacked into, and a large pool of potential victims. While parents and students can't prevent this from happening, they can work to insure that the student herself doesn't hand her identity to a thief.
Why are college students such likely targets?
What can parents do to help protect their kids?