Extension News

Iowa State University Online Courses Explore Identity Theft


AMES, Iowa – Not only is identity theft the fastest growing crime in the United States, but it also tops Americans’ concerns about their security. Americans are reminded of ID theft frequently. A Dec. 21, 2005, Associated Press headline noted Ford Motor Co. informed about 70,000 white-collar employees that a computer with company data, including social security numbers, was stolen from one of their facilities.


Iowa State University political science professor Steffen Schmidt says "This is just one in a string of devastating cases of information loss that can haunt people for years, cost them tens of thousands of dollars, and ultimately destroy many people's lives.” Schmidt is coauthor of a new book on identity theft "Who is You? The Coming Epidemic of Identity Theft.”


In response to this epidemic, Schmidt and his coauthor Michael McCoy are teaching online courses this spring through Iowa State University continuing education. A three-credit academic course ‘Electronic Democracy’ taught by Schmidt covers identity theft. McCoy will teach a noncredit short course on identity theft.


McCoy is a licensed insurance agent in the state of Iowa and president of M Squared Holdings LLC which does consulting for the banking and insurance industry. He conducts identity theft education seminars throughout the country for police departments, banks, insurance agencies and private corporations.


Identity theft is a hot topic for individuals as well as business employees who need to learn about identity theft to spot schemes and processes that may be harmful to their customers. In 2003, the average amount charged in identity theft was nearly $93,000. It took the victim an average of 600 hours and $1,495 to clear the theft.


The college credit course Political Science 487 begins Jan. 9 and concludes May 5. It is offered for both undergraduate and graduate credit. The noncredit short course is offered twice, Feb. 10-20 and Feb. 24 - March 6. Those who enroll will learn about identity theft schemes and processes including phishing, spam, spear phishing, dumpster diving, "car peeking" and zombie computers.


Schmidt says the courses are particularly relevant to consumers anxious to protect their confidential information and to professionals in the insurance, banking, education, law enforcement, retail business and health fields who have a legal responsibility to protect their clients against this crime.


The short course fee is $30. For an additional $10, students may also receive Continuing Education Credits (CECs) for insurance agents. The course is offered through University Conference Services at Iowa State. For more information and to register, visit www.ucs.iastate.edu/mnet/identitytheft/home.html or call (515) 294-6222 or (800) 262-0015. The Web site has a link to the academic course.



Contacts :
Steffen Schmidt, Political Science, (515) 294-3825, sws@iastate.edu

Lynette Spicer, Continuing Education and Communication Services, (515) 294-1327, lspicer@iastate.edu