Tips for college students to prevent identity theft
(Note: If you haven't read the first page of this article on why college students are at special risk for identity theft, click here before you read this page.)
How identity theft affects college students on campus
If you commute to school, chances are you don't carry all of your personal belongings with you. However, you probably carry your license, student ID card, and a variety of other personal documents.
Make sure you keep these items with you at all times. If you can manage that, you will lower your risk of becoming an identity theft victim on campus.
Unfortunately, it's not that easy for those who live on campus.
It's a fact that where you go, your things will follow. If you live in a college dorm, you most likely have enough documents with you to support a fraternity of identity thieves!
While most colleges are relatively safe, burglaries can and do happen. If you leave your important documents lying around, there is a good chance that somebody could steal or copy them.
It's in your best interest to make things as difficult as possible for any would-be thief. So here are some tips on how to hide your valuables from prying eyes:
- Invest in a lockbox or safe to store your private documents.
- Never leave your wallet in plain sight.
- Don't clutter your desk with the documents that define you.
- Keep your credit card and bank account statements locked in a safe place.
- Don't let roommates see where you store your valuables.
- Always keep your front door and/or dorm room locked, even if you expect company.
- Choose your company wisely.
Although you might fully trust the people you invite into your room, you should still exercise caution.
Why? Because the majority of college identity theft victims are robbed by people they know!
Here are three examples you may not have thought about:
- If a company, such as a video rental or pizza delivery place, has a system of telephone verification, then a student can easily use a roommate's or suite mate's account unlawfully.
- If a student is authorized to use a parent's credit card, the code or PIN number could be transmitted casually to (or easily stolen by) a roommate or friend.
- Although college students may trust someone today, disagreements and a falling out later may show another side to a person's character. And just because you're no longer in touch with a person you knew in college does not mean that person can't sell or pass along your security information or use it to take unlawful advantage of you.
So, as much as we hate cliches, it really is better to be safe than sorry.
How identity theft affects college students online
Nowadays, as a college student you probably use the Internet to search for just about everything. Because of this, it's not very difficult for identity thieves to turn your Internet use around to search for you.
We're not saying you should stay away from the Internet. That would be impossible -- and just plain silly. However, you should be very careful about what kind of information you post and where you post it.
In a day and age when chat rooms, blogs, and online communities are rampant, it's hard not to divulge too much personal information on the Internet.
When you create an online profile, you may believe that you're still pretty invisible. However, take a moment to think about how easy it is for you to find information about someone else. It doesn't take much time or effort, does it?
So it's probably just as easy to find the same information about you.
Whenever you post your personal information on the Internet, you're making yourself just a little bit more vulnerable to college student identity theft.
Here are seven simple tips to follow while you're online so you don't become an identity theft victim:
- Never display your full name in an online profile.
- Be discreet about where you live.
- Only shop through reputable online merchants.
- Never, ever fall for email hoaxes that ask for money. Even better, NEVER respond to spam.
- Avoid email surveys that ask for a lot of information.
- Always log out of a website before you exit.
- Never post your picture along with personal information.
We realize that these things can be hard to avoid. However, we also realize that identity theft is a hassle that no college student wants to deal with. Just play it safe online and you'll protect yourself more than you can imagine.
8 more detailed tips to help college students prevent identity theft
- Keep personal information under lock and key and shred your old records.
Roommates often have access to mail and other personal documents and information, which makes it possible for them to sabotage or duplicate another person's identity.
There are also people who go through dumpsters and collect discarded bills, printouts, and other mail or documents. Such discards may seem harmless in and of themselves, but when combined with other pieces of personal information, they can be used to take advantage of you in various ways, including stealing from you.
- Keep your computer information and access secure.
Most desktop computers and laptops allow you to create a login password or a user profile. This gives you some security and flexibility when a roommate or friend wants to use your computer. Check your computer's manual to find out how you'll know when your computer files have been accessed by someone other than yourself.
- Keep your credit data confidential.
Roommates, friends, classmates, co-workers, and anybody you work with can come to know a little bit too much about you from conversations or snatches of dialogue casually overheard. So be careful!
Don't announce a new credit card to a group of friends. Don't give your ATM or security code for your credit card to anyone. Don't leave examples of your signature lying around. Make sure that if you have a box of checks, you know what numbers should still be there.
- Create safe passwords.cliches
If you've already shared a password with a roommate or anyone else, make sure to change it. Don't allow passwords to remain unchanged for long periods of time. Don't choose a password that might be obvious, one that a roommate or friend could guess.
If you're using a public or school computer, make sure you log out of any online service or email account when you're done. Test this by trying to log back in. If the login retains your login name and asks for a password, you should close the window and delete the memory files for the session.
Click here for the next four tips and find out what colleges are doing to prevent identity theft, as well as tips to help college students who become identity theft victims.