When you are a student just starting your college career and moving away from home for the first time, identity theft is probably not on the list of things you are worried about going wrong. But according to the Federal Trade Commission, the number of identity theft complaints filed with the FTC for the 18-29 age group has increased dramatically. In fact, one in five complaints come from this group, making college students the most at-risk group for identity theft.
There are a number of reasons college students are so vulnerable to identity theft including living in a dorm or shared space, naiveté, targeted credit card offers, online shopping, and more. Some even attribute increased social media use as a reason for identity theft among college students. No matter the reason, there are certain things every college student should know and do to protect themselves against identity theft.
- Monitor your financial records as often as possible, including your bank accounts and credit cards as well as your credit report. Take a few minutes each day to log into your accounts online and check for any suspicious activity. Also, check your credit report regularly by requesting a free copy of your credit report every four months from the major credit reporting agencies.
- Don’t give out your Social Security number unless necessary. Only share your Social Security number for tax reasons, credit, verified employment, or when you know how it will be used and if it will be shared. Do not give it away for a freebie or for any other reason.
- Shred all documents with personal information. Do not leaving any documents containing personal information out in the open.
- Do not share your passwords. Even if you trust your friends, it is never recommended that you share your passwords.
- Keep credit and debit cards protected. Do not lend friends or colleagues your cards or card numbers. Avoid using credit and debit cards at highly populated places like bars and restaurants.
- Do not shop online or pay bills on a public computer.
For those living in a dorm or shared space…
- Always lock your door. Do this to protect not only your personal information, but also your belongings.
- Consider forwarding sensitive mail (such as financial information) to your parents’ home. Mailboxes in college dorms are less secure and you never know who might get ahold of your bank statement or a pre-approved credit card offer. Also, avoid putting outgoing mail in unsecured campus mailboxes.
- Don’t let everyone use your personal computer. With all of your personal information available at the click of a mouse, it’s important that you monitor who uses your computer and for what. Be sure to password protect all of your electronic devices.
- Use firewall and antivirus programs on your computer, especially if you are constantly connected to the school’s internet connection. Be aware of peer-to-peer file sharing programs and always be responsible about the information you share on social networking sites.
- Store important information and files in a locked safe. Consider purchasing a safe to store identification and financial information and documents.
For more information, download ACCC’s ID Theft guide.