Education Department Takes Steps to Curb Identity Theft Among Students

Education Department Takes Steps to Curb Identity Theft Among StudentsU.S. Secretary of Education Roderick Paige urged college students to be aware of the growing problem of identity theft, and announced recently several action steps the Department of Education is taking to help combat this problem. Paige made the announcement at a December press conference held at Howard University in Washington, D.C., where he was joined by Howard University President H. Patrick Swygert, Department of Education Inspector General Jack Higgins, Federal Student Aid Chief Operating Officer Terri Shaw and college students.
“Identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes against consumers,” Paige said. “In 2003, it affected nearly 10 million people and cost victims more than $5 billion. And it can affect all of us — including students.
“Most students are well informed about the basic rules for protecting their physical well-being and possessions — rules like walking in well-lit areas, traveling in groups, and locking their doors and windows. But too many students don’t know the basics of protecting their identity. Fortunately, with the proper safeguards, students can secure their personal information and prevent criminals from abusing their good name and record.”
The department is launching a new Web resource, <www.ed.gov/misused>, which includes comprehensive information for students and families, including tips for protecting their identity and advice on how they can detect identity theft. In addition, the department’s hotline, 1-800-MISUSED, is for anyone who suspects student loan fraud. And, the Department of Education’s student aid publications have information about identity theft, and soon the student loan billing statements will include tips for protecting against identity theft.
The new Web site warns that college students are particularly vulnerable to having their Social Security numbers and driver’s license information stolen.  
“This is a very important resource for students all over the country because they are targeted groups for credit card companies and others interested in obtaining their personal information,” Swygert said. “As we make more and more technology available to them, we have an equal responsibility to make them aware of the pitfalls that go along with the territory. Identity theft is one of those pitfalls and certainly, one of the most devastating.” 



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