Lawmakers discuss risks of credit cards

By Lisa Chung

Offering free food is just one of the gimmicks used by credit card companies on campus to get college students to sign up for a credit card.

Although free food can be enticing, several Illinois politicians have urged students to remember that having a full stomach may not be worth the adverse effects a credit card can have on your credit score.

In attempts to educate students about credit cards, Illinois state Sen. Michael Frerichs, Megan Fulara, a representative for Attorney Gen. Lisa Madigan, and the student life committee of the Illinois Student Senate sponsored a workshop about responsible credit card management at the Pine Lounge in the Illini Union on Monday evening.

“Many students get their first credit card when they’re in college,” said Justin Cajindos, Frerichs’ chief of staff. “A lot of them run into trouble and they pile up large amounts of debt. They are not really aware of how to responsibly manage a credit card.”

Frerichs spoke about credit card identity theft, credit card consumer fraud and warned students about the dangers of signing up for credit cards without knowing much-needed background information on them.

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    “A lot of freshmen get here and don’t know a lot of the marketing techniques that credit card companies use,” Frerichs said. “Some students do not understand how credit cards work. They have problems with mismanagement and outright fraud.”

    College students are frequent victims of identity theft, Fulara said.

    One of the steps to prevent identity theft is to limit the amount of information you disclose and to whom you distribute the information, she said. Also, Fulara suggested using online services provided by credit cards to monitor transactions.

    “If you have a credit card, you want to make sure that you are not waiting a month to check on the paper statement,” she said. “You should check the statements online to monitor the transactions daily online to make sure they go through properly.”

    Many students are not aware of how they can be burdened by bad credit scores or by credit card debt after they graduate, said Michael Cashman, chair of the student life committee of the Illinois Student Senate and senior in LAS.

    Financial advising groups were brought in to talk about the tricks credit card companies try to pull on students.

    Ryan Hanson, sophomore in LAS, attended the workshop to learn more about the details of credit cards.

    “Once I leave college, I’m going to have to be able to manage my finances on my own,” he said. “I really don’t know now how it all works, and I thought I’d enrich myself.”