Identity Theft on College Campuses
College students are five times more likely to be a victim of identity theft than the general public, according to the FTC’s Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book. They are particularly vulnerable to identity theft because they often live in close quarters and are highly connected online. If your children or grandchildren are college students, it’s important to tell them how to make their personal information more secure and difficult to steal. It’s also crucial to emphasize how early detection can make a difference in resolving identity theft.
Here are some tips from the Better Business Bureau to help college students reduce the risk of identity theft:
1. Lock up your laptop: Make sure you have an updated version of an anti-virus and spyware software on your computer. Password protect all of your devices and never leave your computer or mobile phone unattended.
2. Don’t send secure mail through campus mailboxes: Campus mailboxes are typically not as protected as USPS ones.
3. Don’t use a public computer: If you’re using a school computer, refrain from activities that involve personal information like online banking or shopping.
4. Monitor your bank accounts and credit cards: Check your online accounts regularly and look for any strange or inaccurate transactions. If you see something that looks like a fraudulent purchase, call your bank right away.
5. Avoid credit card sign-up booths on campus: Filling out all the info to get a credit card in the middle of the campus center is not a secure method. If you want to open a credit card, do your research and open one from a reputable company.
6. Be aware of your surroundings: ‘Shoulder surfing’ is when someone snaps a photo of your account over your shoulder when you’re not paying attention.
7. Make sure your student ID number isn’t your Social Security number: If it is, request to have it changed.
8. Be careful what you share on social media: Sharing personal details such as your birthday, name of your high school or a pet’s name may make you vulnerable to identity theft thieves.
9. Be wary of school computer networks: Peer-to-peer file sharing programs and unsecure WiFi networks can leave your computer vulnerable to hackers. Makes sure you use up-to-date computer security software and install updates often.
10. Shred your private documents: Shred your old bank account statements, any documents containing personal information and even unopened credit card offers that arrive unsolicited in the mail.
11. Use a credit card for online shopping: Make purchases only from stores you know and trust, and use a credit card rather than a debit card when checking out. If fraudulent purchases are made on your debit card, you aren’t guaranteed to get that money back.
The U.S. Dept of Education has created a website that shows college students how to protect themselves and what to do if they become a victim. The website is available at: http://www.ed.gov/about/offices/list/oig/misused/idtheft.html
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