Will Credit Card Laws Help Reduce ID Theft for Young Consumers?

By Robert Holtfreter, Ph.D., CFE

bob-holtfreter-50x50.jpg   Taking Back the ID 


Franklin Winston, a 19-year-old freshman, arrived on campus to attend a college orientation program. He learned a lot, but the college missed an important subject: how to manage credit cards. Franklin’s ignorance would cost him dearly in time, money, and reputation.  

He later stopped by a table in the student union offering a free T-shirt to any student applying for a credit card. Franklin got both. His orientation packet also included an application for another credit card, which he filled out because the card was sponsored by the college and it would include its imprinted logo.  

Eventually he obtained two more credit cards and used them throughout the year to pay for his bills plus items he purchased on the Internet. But Franklin was careless. Sometimes he left the cards or monthly statements on the desk in his dorm room. And he casually tossed the applications he periodically received in the mail for “pre-approved” credit cards into his wastepaper basket where they sat for several weeks before ending up in a campus dumpster. 

When he finally noticed several hundred dollars of unsubstantiated charges on two of his credit card statements, he realized he had become a victim of identity theft. He wasn’t out any money, but he had to spend many hours trying to untangle the mess with the credit card companies, and his credit rating was shot.  

This identity theft case is fictional, but it mirrors cases for many individuals, especially those in the 29-and-under age group who have too many credit cards, which increases the potential for identity theft. Sandra Block, who writes the “Your Money” column for USA Today, reported on Sept. 9, 2009, that 84 percent of college students owned a credit card in 2008, with 50 percent having four or more. 




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