Criminals sometimes apply for financial aid, including student loans, using a person’s stolen identity. Sometimes the identity theft is not discovered until the victim enrolls in college and applies for student financial aid.
Identity Theft Discharge
If a student did not borrow a federal student loan because he or she was the victim of identity theft, the loan may be eligible for a false certification discharge. The student must not have received or benefited from the federal education loan proceeds.
To qualify for an identity theft discharge, the student must provide evidence that he or she was the victim of identity theft, such as a copy of a court verdict or judgment that conclusively determines that the student is a victim of identity theft. The court judgment must identify the name of the individuals who committed the crime of identity theft. A copy of a police report is not sufficient.
The student may be required to provide copies of government-issued photo identification cards, such as a driver’s license or passport, to establish his or her identity. The student may also be required to provide signature samples from the approximate date the loan’s promissory note was signed.
The student will be required to sign a sworn statement certifying under penalty of perjury that he or she is the victim of identity theft in the presence of a public notary. The student must also agree to cooperate with the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Justice in the investigation and prosecution of the crime of identity theft.
Avoiding Identity Theft
To reduce the chances of becoming a victim of identity theft, consumers should be cautious about sharing personal identifiers, such as Social Security numbers and dates of birth. Beware of unsolicited scholarship opportunities. Do not click on links in email messages. Keep documents that contain sensitive information in a safe place or shred them using a cross-cut paper shredder.
Do not share your FSA ID with anyone, not even relatives.
Reporting Identity Theft
Report theft of a wallet, purse, Social Security card, credit cards and ID cards to the police or local law enforcement.
Report identity theft involving federal student aid to the Office of the Inspector General at the U.S. Department of Education by calling 1-800-MIS-USED (1-800-647-8733) or visiting www.ed.gov/misused.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is the federal agency that is responsible for handling complaints from victims of identity theft. The FTC publishes a guide to dealing with identity theft. Call 1-877-IDTHEFT (1-877-438-4338) or TDD 1-866-653-4261 for more information and to report identity theft. The FTC may refer victims to other local, state and federal agencies and organizations, as appropriate.
The Social Security Administration publishes a brochure entitled Identity Theft and Your Social Security Number.
Additional information and assistance may be obtained from the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC).
Victims of identity theft may also wish to contact the three major credit reporting bureaus.