Identity Theft Seminar Sheds Light on Invisible Thieves

Posted: January 24, 2005 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Tara Laskowski

With more than 9.9 million Americans falling prey to identity theft in 2003, and more than $2 trillion in personal loss projected by the end of this year, it is no wonder that people are becoming increasingly concerned about protecting themselves from such a crime. Cathy Hubbs, information technology security coordinator, recently held DoIt Dialogue sessions at all three campuses to help build awareness of identity theft at Mason and beyond; two more sessions are scheduled.

Although the seminar was developed before the recent hacker attack on the Mason ID server, the topic was timely. “Electronically stored data—including sensitive data such as birth dates, Social Security numbers, and credit card information—has become common and is increasingly hard to trace,” said Hubbs. “It is important that you look out for ‘number one’ and protect yourself.”

Hubbs said identity theft is also much easier. Thieves do not have to have any particular computer knowledge to gather personal information. A simple Internet connection and web browser can bring startling amounts of sensitive information to a scammer who knows what to search for.

However, being suspicious and diligent will help stop thieves from getting your personal information, Hubbs said. Simple, common-sense actions like keeping a checkbook balanced or checking your credit report regularly can alert you to potential problems before they become nightmares. Also, being aware of e-mail scams and securing online purchases will help you from becoming a victim, Hubbs said.

An abundance of information, including the handouts given at the session, is available on the IT security web site on how to protect yourself both in the “real” world and the virtual world. Below are some tips Hubbs provided:

  • Delete suspicious e-mails before opening them. Never click on links in e-mails, or open attachments, if you weren’t expecting them.

  • Install mail filters in your e-mail to catch spam, viruses, and other unwanted messages.
  • Make sure you update your software patches and virus software.
  • Request a credit report every four months.
  • Decide how much information you need to carry with you in your purse and wallet.
  • Keep an emergency file at home.
  • Create strong passwords online that are a mixture of words and numbers.

For those who missed the first sessions, the Identity Theft DoIT Dialogue will be held on the Arlington Campus on Tuesday, Jan. 25, from 10 to 11:30 a.m. in the Original Building, Lecture Hall, Room 244. There will also be another session on the Fairfax Campus on Wednesday, Jan. 26, from 1 to 2:30 p.m. in the Johnson Center, Meeting Room D. For more information or to register, e-mail

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