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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.