Ten years ago, the idea of stealing someone's personal information to commit fraud was more sci-fi fantasy than cause for concern. Today, identity theft is the nation's fastest growing crime, having claimed more than 27 million victims in the last five years alone. What's more, academic institutions have become prime targets of this serious offense. In light of recent breaches on campuses across the country, you should be aware of where ID theft risks lie and what actions you can take to protect personal information.
What type of information is sensitive?
- Credit card, drivers license, social security, and telephone numbers
- Financial account information
- Physical descriptions
- Home addresses
- Educational, medical, and employment history
Where might this information be lurking?
- Federal grant applications
- Performance evaluations
- Downloads from PPS and Banner
- Online order forms or auction Web sites
- Digital access to bank, credit card, or other account information
- Personal information in emails or instant messages
Which devices are vulnerable?
- Computers, laptops, PDAs, cell phones, blackberries, and other mobile devices
How do I avoid becoming a victim?
- Get to know UC Davis Cyber-safety Program Policy, which defines individual and campus unit responsibilities, as well as 14 key practices for protecting UC Davis computing systems and electronic data.
- Remove unnecessary personal information from your home and work computers and mobile devices.
- Transfer personal files to removable media or make them useless to hackers or thieves by using encryption.
- Keep software patches, anti-spyware and anti-virus programs up-to-date.
- Use passwords that are difficult to guess a nd keep them secret.
- Password protect your phone, bank, and credit card accounts.
- Order a copy of your credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus (visit consumer.gov/idtheft for directions on how to order three free credit reports per year).
- Learn about information security procedures in the workplace; find out who has access to your personal information and verify that it is stored securely.
You might need to speak to your department's Technology Support Coordinator (TSC) or other technical support person for more detailed information regarding personal data management. Visit tsp.ucdavis.edu to locate your department's TSC.
What are the warning signs of ID theft?
- There is unauthorized activity on your credit report.
- Expected bills do not arrive, or unexpected ones do.
- You are denied credit for no apparent reason.
What do I do if I believe I'm a victim?
- Immediately close the accounts that have been tampered with.
- File fraud reports with the police and federal government (consumer.gov/idtheft).
- Call the FTC's Identity Theft Hotline (1-877-ID THEFT).
What do I do if I suspect someone has gained unauthorized access to sensitive workplace data?
- Report security breaches to your department's technical support person and/or to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Where do I go for more information?
- UC Davis Security site: security.ucdavis.edu/id_theft.cfm.
- ID Theft: When Bad Things Happen to Your Good Name," published by the FTC and available online at www.ftc.gov/bcp/conline/pubs/credit/idtheft.htm.
- "Preventing Identity Theft" from the University of Oklahoma Police Department: ou.edu/oupd/idtheft3.htm.