Colleges and universities across the United States work diligently to protect student information. Unfortunately, criminal operators are also at work attempting to use stolen identities and personal information to inappropriately secure student loans and other financial aid. Just recently, this issue hit home at Northern Virginia Community College as our school was targeted by identity thieves who were able to use other people’s identities to obtain federal student loans in a scheme that targeted NVCC and other schools. This blog provides tips for students to protect their information from identity thieves and outlines how NVCC is committed to protecting student data.
NVCC provides various security protocols and technologies to ensure that your student information is protected from identity thieves. In the recent targeting of NVCC in the student loan scheme, it should be recognized that no student information at NVCC was compromised. Rather, as Alexandra News reports, the thieves used the identities of non-students to pose as students at NVCC. These identities were used to obtain federal student loans as the thieves posed as students at NVCC and other colleges and universities around the United States.
Even though no NVCC student identities were appropriated by the thieves, this student loan scheme highlights the importance of protecting your identity and reporting potential theft to authorities and school officials. There are several key actions you can take to ensure that your identity remains protected:
- Protect your social security number. Your social security number is the primary target of identity thieves as it is the foundation for establishing an appropriated identity to secure financial aid, including student loans. Never provide your social security number to any person or institution unless you are confident in their credibility. Know your number by memory and never keep your number or social security card in your wallet or purse. NEVER give your MyNOVA password, FSA ID or other passwords to anyone! If you think a password has been compromised, change it immediately. Be alert for any suspicious activity, and address it.
- Never respond to unsolicited requests for your information. Identity thieves often pose as official representatives of banks, schools, or government agencies over the telephone. Never provide personal information to someone who has called you unless you are certain that person is calling from the organization he or she claims to represent.
- Destroy your paperwork. Bank, credit card, and school paperwork can contain vital information that can be used by identity thieves. Use a shredder or other means to safely and wholly destroy your paperwork. Securing paperless billing and communications from your financial and other institutions is another great way to avoid appropriation of your documentation.
- Install firewalls and virus detection software. Your mobile and computing devices offer another opportunity for identity thieves to steal your identity. Make sure that all your devices have appropriate security software installed to prevent intrusion. Such software is usually provided by the manufacturer of the device and the software provider.
- Create complex passwords. Your password should contain numbers, characters, and a mix of lowercase and uppercase format.
Lastly, NVCC calls upon all students to REPORT SUSPICIOUS ACTIVITY that might indicate identity theft. If you think someone might be involved in stealing your information or that of someone you know, contact NVCC Police or your local law enforcement agency ASAP. Such activity can include observing an individual who appears to be physically snooping over the shoulder of a student working on a computer. Or perhaps you have received an unsolicited telephone call from someone claiming to represent NVCC or your financial institution.
NVCC seeks to partner with students in fighting identity theft. We are very careful in all processes and cautious in disbursing aid. Financial aid provides necessary support for many students, and identity theft represents a serious threat to this vital source of student aid and academic accomplishment. Please help us help you!
“Identity Theft.” USA.gov. Retrieved from https://www.usa.gov/identity-theft.
“Two Plead Guilty to Student Loan Fraud Scheme Targeting NVCC.” Alexandrianews.org. Retrieved from https://www.alexandrianews.org/2016/07/two-plead-guilty-to-student-loan-fraud-scheme-targeting-nvcc/.