Within the past month, three Sam Houston State University students have reported incidents of identity theft and University Police are working to solve a crime that is growing every year.
On Tuesday, March 17, a female student reported to UPD that information from her debit card had been stolen and used to make a series of fraudulent purchases.
According to UPD Deputy Chief James Fitch, the student’s card was most likely cloned using the stolen information and used to make the purchases, which totaled $2,100.
The information was stolen while the student was attempting to open an account at a cell phone company in The Woodlands area.
“The best we can tell is that while dealing with another transaction, they told the girl that her PIN number for this account she was opening up had to be the same as on the card, so they took her credit card information and her PIN number,” Fitch said. “Nobody requires your PIN numbers to be the same.”
Two other incidents of identity theft occurred earlier this month when a pair of students reported separate incidents of fraud on March 4.
One student contacted UPD about a fraudulent line of credit that had been opened in his name while a second student reported their card had been used fraudulently in Shenandoah.
While all of these incidents occurred off campus and outside of Walker County, Fitch said his department is more than willing to help students, faculty or staff with any incident of identity theft or fraud, no matter the location.
“We will work those cases (out of area) because we are here to help the students,” Fitch said. “Debit card and fraudulent use of ID cases can be taken anywhere so those are the ones we take, no matter where. We want to do everything we can to serve the community.”
UPD is working with Montgomery County law enforcement to solve the case that was reported on Tuesday, and Fitch said he hopes to have video soon from the businesses where the fraudulent charges were made.
Fraudulent Use of Identifying Information is a felony with the degree dependent upon the amount of money in the transactions. Debit Card/Credit Card Abuse is a state jail felony punishable by up to two years in a state jail.
Fitch said the main things students should do is keep a close eye on their information, such as Social Security cards, and give it out to as few people as possible.
“Usually, they’re going to use [the card] several times in a short period of time before the credit card company shuts down the card,” Fitch said. ” The big thing is never to give out your PIN information to anybody. It’s just a growing crime that we’re dealing with more and more.”