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Colleges Cracking Down on Campus Identity Theft

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Millions of people are now being victimized by identity theft every year, and the people behind those crimes can come from anywhere, including college campuses. Incidents of college students ripping off both their peers and others have grown in recent months, and now many institutions are trying to crack down.

Authorities say that a growing number of college students may be turning to various types of fraud these days, according to a report from Gannett News. One such case at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay saw two students use a Nebraska woman’s credit card to pay their tuition, but interestingly, the school chose to issue citations for the crimes, rather than arrest them despite the fact that the cases could be prosecuted as felonies. If they are found guilty of the crimes, they would only have to pay about $750 each in fines.

There are a number of types of identity theft that can hit a college campus, the report said. Most involve the use of fake IDs and other documents to buy alcohol or gain access to parking areas reserved for others, but a growing number also involve making tuition payments or on-campus purchases with bogus credit card or other account numbers. Some even use “e-checks” that later turn out to be worthless.

Currently, it’s unclear how many colleges across the country have been affected by this type of crime, but new federal regulations mandate that schools and other organizations do more to safeguard against and detect when fraudulent payments are being pushed through, the report said. However, that is easier said than done, because more than half of all student payments at UW-GB take place online.

“The trouble is if no one realizes the credit card has been stolen, then nothing raises a red flag,” said David Kieper, UW-GB information technology security officer. “We’re as vulnerable to this as the next business.”

Identity theft can be particularly problematic if consumers go weeks or even months without realizing it has taken place. For this reason, it’s often wise to keep close tabs on all financial statements so that it’s easier to detect suspicious payments when they happen. Often, there are limits to when financial institutions are able to consider a fraudulent payment as having been reported on time, and if that deadline passes, a borrower might be on the hook for a purchase they didn’t make.

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