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Identity Theft in College - Avoid a Miss-Start in Life

Identity Theft

Identity Theft Handbook Now Available

Brought to you by:
MaryPIRG Foundation

"Identity Theft Handbook: Steps to Protect Yourself" is now available. 

Download your copy now.    (PDF, 1 MB)

What's New
During the 2004 Maryland legislative session, MaryPIRG worked with other consumer organizations to pass the Maryland Social Security Number Protection Act. Unfortunately, influential representatives from the insurance industry successfully lobbied Governor Ehrlich for a veto of the bill.

This legislation would have prohibited companies and institutions from using Social Security numbers as the ID number on people's accounts. Social Security numbers are the main key for identity thieves to gain access to people's credit. The bill would also have forbidden companies from denying service to customers who decline to supply their Social Security number unless the company has legal needs to use the number for a transaction.

In addition to working to protect our Social Security numbers, MaryPIRG is identifying public policies that can be implemented on the state level to better protect Maryland residents from identity theft.

What You Can Do
MaryPIRG is collecting stories from victims of identity theft to demonstrate the need for reform. If you have been a victim, please tell us your story. If you know someone who has had their identity stolen, please ask them to tell us about it.

Brief Summary
Your personal financial information is bought, sold and traded by corporations without your permission or knowledge. On a daily basis, banks, credit card companies and other institutions trade sensitive data such as credit card numbers, Social Security numbers, checking account numbers, average account balances, credit limits, and credit insurance status. They collect information they don't really need and are sloppy in the way they manage it. This makes it easy for thieves to get their hands on people's records.

As a result, identity theft is the fastest growing crime in America, impacting someone every 78 seconds. Complaints to the Federal Trade Commission doubled last year. At least seven million Americans were victims of identity theft in the one year period ending this past July.

This is often much more than a matter of asking a credit card company to remove an erroneous charge. It involves thieves taking out lines of credit in victims' names, criminals giving someone else's ID to law enforcement officers, and other types of fraud.

And then it's the responsibility of the victim to clean up the mess, not the sloppy company. The average victim spends 600 hours and $1,500 clearing his or her name. This is unfair, and MaryPIRG is working to put consumers back in control of their personal financial information, to deter financial institutions from reckless business practices, and to give victims of identity theft recourse to clear their records.

 | Tell Us Your Story |


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  • Number of times an individual missed or paid late on a loan or a card other than the one for which they were calling (fewer is better)

7 For a detailed discussion of credit card interest rates, floors, and other credit card abuses, see testimony of Edmund Mierzwinski, U.S. PIRG, before the House Committee on Financial Services, 1November 2001,

8 Federal Reserve Bulletin, September, 2000, "Credit Cards: Use and Consumer Attitudes, 1970-2000" p. 629, chart. The survey asked consumers to respond to the statement that the "interest rates charged on credit cards are reasonable." 26% disagreed somewhat and 55% disagreed strongly, for a total of 81%.


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