With the frequency of identity theft increasing, USF is planning to reduce the use of Social Security numbers to identify students.
The USF Office of the Registrar plans to give all students an alternate student ID by October. The move is intended to reduce students’ risk of identity theft. According to a 2003 report from the Federal Trade Commission, almost 5 percent of American adults have experienced some form of identity theft during the past five years. The cost of the conversion is unknown.
“The worldwide threat of identity theft has been growing at an unprecedented rate,” Gail Evans, coordinator of information technologies, said. “The University of South Florida commits to provide enhanced security for students, faculty and staff. Minimizing the use of the Social Security number will help reduce identity theft.”
The Social Security number is used for a wide variety of dealings on campus. To access any information in the Financial Aid office a student must enter their Social Security into a keypad. Many offices on campus ask students to state their number out loud.
“Students will notice that they will not have to provide their Social to receive support services or to do common things like purchase books or food,” University Registrar Angela Debose said. “They could use their card or whatever method. If they need assistance in an office, after this change takes affect they can provide their alternate ID. When they log into OASIS, they will have the ability to use the alternate ID. This should give students an added layer of security.”
According to the FTC report, 17 percent of all identity theft victims have had their personal information misused to obtain a variety of credit cards and other accounts. USF’s decision to reduce the risk of others obtaining Social Security numbers was welcomed by some students.
“Honestly, I’m not comfortable using my Social, but you use it everywhere,” Courtney Lesser, a sophomore majoring in public relations, said. “Any time you don’t use your Social it’s going to be more safe.”
After the conversion, there will be minimal use of the Social Security number at USF.
“Students will no longer have to use their Social Security number when doing business with the University, except in cases where it is mandated by law, e.g. IRS tax reporting,” Evans said.
USF is the last of the five major universities in the state to adopt this system. The University of Florida, Florida State University, the University of Miami and the University of Central Florida all use an alternate form of student ID numbers that keeps students’ Social Security numbers hidden.
The OASIS system is one of many components on campus that will undergo the change.
“(USF) has been considering converting since 2002 when there was legislation proposed to no longer use the Social Security number as a primary identifier in student systems,” Debose said. “It is not an effort to remove it, just not use the Social Security (number) as the primary identifier for academic and financial support.”
While some students have not been victims of identity theft, they still would not mind an added sense of security.
“I’ve never had my identity stolen, but I know that you can (be a victim of) identity theft and not know about it for a while,” Lesser said.