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Identity theft: Does it only affect the wealthy of this country? From recent personal experience, I would say no.

According to, we college students are especially prone to this type of fraud, which affects millions of Americans every year.

College students are susceptible to identity theft for a number of reasons. For example, we live with roommates, order miscellaneous items online and give out sensitive information over the phone.

According to, 8.1 million identities were stolen in 2010. Alarmingly, this is the lowest this number has been since 2007.

Although the number of identity theft victims has decreased, theft itself has been more costly to victims recently. also reported that the out-of-pocket costs for fraud victims rose to $631 million in 2010. This is an increase from $387 million in 2009, according to the website.

Unfortunately, I experienced identity theft firsthand not too long ago. Like most of my peers, I do my banking online and receive alert e-mails for just about everything.

Therefore, it seemed only logical to me that a bank would send notification when someone using my Social Security number opened another account. Unfortunately, this was not the case.

I logged in to my account that day, and everything looked normal. I proceeded to check my inbox, where I had an all-too-familiar low balance alert.

But even though someone had stolen my identity, nothing was amiss. I had no notification stating that my accounts were frozen or that someone else was trying to make purchases using my name.

I only found out about my misfortune when I tried to use my debit card. It was declined again and again. It was then that I realized something was wrong, no thanks to the bank.

Addressing identity theft is a tedious process that proved exceptionally difficult to resolve as a college student.

The only step I knew to take was to call the customer service number on the back of my debit card.

This number redirects callers to another number operating during specific hours of the day. An office then tells callers to visit a local branch of their bank where an associate can assist with whatever problem is occurring.

Naturally, the bank’s representatives will only help in a case of identity theft if they can confirm a customer’s identity. To do this, they need to see a Social Security card.

At the time, I of course didn’t have the card, which extended my identity fraud woes. And during this time, my identity thief remained at-large.

While I do think the bank should have alerted me about the scam, I wish I could have been better prepared to deal with it.

So let my misfortune serve as a warning to all college students. Be prepared for these situations in life, whether that means calling a parent to send a Social Security card or just becoming aware of ways to safeguard against identity theft.

And to my alleged identity thief out there — better luck next time.

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