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Identity theft from college students is a growing problem.  This is according to one survey report in 2018 by Javelin Strategy & Research, a financial research firm in California,

22 percent of students were notified that they were a victim of identity fraud either by a debt collector or when they were denied credit, three times higher than average fraud victims.

What is “identity theft?”   When someone steals your identity and do something in your name, it is called “Identity Theft.”   To be exact, it means someone steals your personal information such as your personal data, bank account, credit/debit card (number), Social Security Number, and he or she pretends to be you.

(Note: A Social Security Number (SSN) will not be automatically assigned to an F-1 International student.  You are not required to have an SSN to open a bank account or request utility services.   An international student will need to apply for SSN when he or she works on- or off-campus.)

There are four types of identity theft, according to ADT.  However, these four types of identity theft mentioned by ADT are not commonplace for international students.  But if you ever are the victim of identity theft as a foreign student in the U.S., it is more likely that someone will open a bank account and apply for a credit card in your name to make online and offline purchases.

What should you do if you find your identity has been stolen?   There are several immediate steps you can take to protect yourself.  ADT shares their insight:

  1. File an identity theft report with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at IdentityTheft.gov.
  2. File a police report and keep a copy of it. Your police report can help with removing fraudulent debt from your accounts.
  3. Report suspected fraud to the company or companies involved. Be very clear that suspect your identity was stolen.
  4. Freeze or close any fraudulent accounts that were opened.
  5. Place an identity fraud alert with one of the big three credit bureaus — Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. You only need to contact one, because they are required to contact the other two.
  6. Check your credit report. You can do this with the three credit bureaus or with a one-stop service app.
  7. Change passwords and PINs fo all of your key accounts.
  8. If you experienced tax identity or child identity theft, fill out and submit  IRS 14039 Form (Identity Theft Affidavit).
  9. Contact the Social Security Administration if you think your Social Security number was used fraudulently.
  10. Regularly check your credit reports for the first year to help prevent fraud. Keep in mind that the big three national consumer reporting agencies are required to provide you with a free copy of your credit report once every 12 months at your request.

Dealing with identity theft can be a time-consuming and painful process.   It may take up to one year to see a satisfactory result.  As an international student in the U.S. you should be very careful about giving out your personal data.    Here is what you can do to help prevent identity theft:

  1. Ask the international office at your school, your employer or school administrator before you give out personal information.
  2. Keep personal data (bank account number, credit/debit card number, SSN, passport, driver’s license) in a safe and secure place.
  3. Do not respond immediately to mail, e-mail or phone calls which asks you for your personal data.
  4. The U.S. officials would never ask you for a fee payment over the phone.
  5. Most offices (schools, banks, U.S. government) would never ask for your SSN, or personal passwords over e-mail or phone calls.
  6. Be aware of internet browsing security. Never save your log-in and password information on your computer.
  7. Phone call scams: If anyone who calls you insists on immediate action, ask for his or her name and phone number and say you will call them back in a few minutes. Then ask others (including the international office at your school) if the request sounds legitimate or not.