According to Argonne National Laboratory, the chance of being struck by lightning once is about 1 in 600,000. The probability of being stuck twice is about 1 in 360,000,000,000. (Provided you survive the first strike.) In the world of identity fraud, once your information is stolen, there’s a pretty good chance you’re going to experience fraud more than once. CR80News reports on a Minnesota woman whose identity was used twice to gain fraudulent student loans.

The article reports that a former University of Minnesota student received an email stating she her $20,000 financial aid loan for the University of Wisconsin – Superior had been approved. There were two problems with this email: 1) she had never requested the loan in the first place and 2) she had never applied to the University of Wisconsin. She immediately reported the email to university police. (A good move on her part.)

Further research into the matter discovered that the woman’s Social Security number and official University of Minnesota transcript had been used to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Luckily, she was able to cancel the loan request before any loans were actually taken out.

Unfortunately, that was not the end of the story. The same criminal filed another federal student aid request and got away with just under $20,000 before the woman discovered it. This time, the criminal actually applied for classes and paid tuition with funds from the loan, then kept the balance. The fraudster used the woman’s maiden name, which kept the authorities at bay because a connection between the two names had not been made. (Gee…if only there was a way to use an individual’s identity history to verify and authenticate an identity before the check is sent. Actually, there is a company out there doing that; isn’t there?)

This type of identity theft can be difficult to track down. (Most online identity theft crimes are.) In addition, if a thief uses their own personal address along with the victim’s name on the loan application, it is hard for the victim to discover the crime until after it has occurred.

Here are a few things the Federal Trade Commission recommends for safeguarding personal information: 1) get an annual credit report 2) keep passwords private 3) use secure browsers when online and 4) keep personal data secure on laptops and phones.

There’s no telling what the odds are for getting struck three times by lightening, but there’s probably a good chance the person would not survive. In this case, let’s hope that if this criminal strikes again using the victim’s personal information, the third time will be the charm and this fraudster will be caught.

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