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Receipts scatter the floor around the ATM machines in the Grewcock Student Union. Some are left atop the machine beside a ring from a coffee cup — the stu­dents remem­bered the java, but not the ATM receipt.

Fifth Third and County National banks both have ATMs in the union. Fifth Third receipts display the name of the bank, the location, the most recent trans­action, the balance, the last four digits of the debit card, and the last four digits of the account number. County National’s slips have similar infor­mation.

Those for­gotten pieces of paper could be all someone needs to steal your identity. Don’t leave them behind.

Identity theft is a growing problem in the United States. The Bureau of Justice Sta­tistics reported 17.6 million identity theft victims in 2014, com­pared to 16.6 million in 2012.

Rob Douglas, editor of IdentityTheft.info, said college stu­dents are favored targets.

Douglas is a cer­tified identity theft risk man­agement spe­cialist. He said there is cause for concern for those who leave their ATM slips behind.
“The more infor­mation I have, the more likely I am going to be able to contact the bank and do what’s called ‘account takeover,’” Douglas said.

Account takeovers occur when an indi­vidual has enough infor­mation on another person to make with­drawals, close accounts, or even make loans in that person’s name.

An identity thief can obtain the infor­mation needed through a bank’s online inquiries page, but most fre­quently col­lects it through cus­tomer service tele­phone con­ver­sa­tions due to human error, Douglas said.

“If you get a very helpful cus­tomer service rep­re­sen­tative, they’ll fill in the blanks,” Douglas said.

Identity thieves typ­i­cally use a five-step process in order to obtain account takeover: Know what it is you want to steal, know who the cus­todian of that infor­mation is (the bank), know who the cus­todian will release the data or money to, (the account holder), know what cir­cum­stances are needed for the release of the data or money, and become that person with those cir­cum­stances.

“More times than not, just like the bad guys can, we can put enough data together to actually move money outside of an account,” Douglas said. “The more infor­mation there is, the easier it is.”

Douglas said printing part of the account and card numbers is unnec­essary on receipts like those from the ATMs in the union. He said he has per­formed account takeovers with orig­i­nally having just one piece of pro­tected per­sonal infor­mation.

“Usually what people want is the account number, so I can quickly glance and be sure that the machine or the teller deposited the money from the correct account,” Douglas said. “The card number I should already have.”

Douglas said college stu­dents are one of the most at-risk groups for identity theft. Living in tight quarters in dorms and with room­mates, it is more dif­ficult to keep per­sonal infor­mation private.

Douglas said most college stu­dents have developed some sort of a credit history, allowing them to take out loans.

“While you’re sitting there with a usually very nice, clean, maybe even some credit history that’s pristine, that’s a prime person I want to imper­sonate,” Douglas said. “It’s not nec­es­sarily the money itself; it may just be the credit history and the ability to take out lines of credit in your name.”

Most impor­tantly, however, Douglas said college stu­dents are easy targets because they aren’t paying attention.

By law, an indi­vidual can check their credit report three times a year for free. Getting a credit report every four months from the three major credit bureaus — Experian, Tran­sUnion, and Equifax — can help track per­sonal finances, Douglas said.

“Probably 99 percent of college stu­dents aren’t going to do that,” Douglas said.

To avoid identity theft, Douglas also rec­om­mended indi­viduals check account bal­ances at least once a week. Addi­tionally, store ATM receipts in a locked or at least out-of-sight spot for a day or two to ensure the bank com­pleted any trans­ac­tions. Then shred the receipt.

If there is no access to a shredder, rip up the receipt and throw the pieces into sep­arate trash cans if pos­sible.

Super­in­tendent of Cus­todial Ser­vices Kelli Withrow said her teams rarely find slips from the bank machines in the union, but when they do, they tear them up and throw them away.

But don’t take that risk. Make sure to grab the receipt before leaving the ATM.