7 Ways College Students Can Protect Themselves from ID Theft Research shows that young adults, particularly college students, are slowest to identify when ID theft has occurred. Here are seven easy tips to make them more aware outside of the classroom. BY JOHN SILEO
Many college students worry about tests, but more lasting damage could happen outside the classroom.
You and your spouse have watched them grow. You’ve both experienced the ups and downs of living under one roof for the past 18 years together, but the time has come and they’re about to leave the nest for college—both an exciting and anxiety-ridden experience for most.
Often overlooked is the safety of your child’s identity. These young adults living away from home for the first time are particularly vulnerable to identity theft. In a 2010 survey, Javelin Strategy and Research found that young adults, aged 18-24, take the longest to detect identity theft—132 days on average—when compared to other age groups. Here are seven tips every college student should take to fight identity theft:
1. School mailboxes can be easily tampered with and are not always safe. Instead of having sensitive (bank, legal, personal) documents sent to your apartment or dorm room, have them sent to a permanent address (your parents’ home or the post office) or sent somewhere that will require your signature.
2. Invest in a fireproof lock box to store all your important documents. This can be vital when you are sharing a living space and can’t control everyone that comes and goes. You should lock up your social security card, passport and bank and credit card statements. Shred any important financial documents that come in the mail and never leave any sensitive mail lying out.
3. Never answer a "friend-in-distress" message on e-mail or Facebook. Most likely if a friend is desperate for money, they’ll call you directly rather than contact you online—99% of the time these are Nigerian scams. Also, never click on an unidentified link that a friend has posted. Check to be sure what you are clicking on is not a virus. Learn more on Facebook and Online Safety (click here).
4. Always check your credit or debit card statements closely for any suspicious activity. The sooner you identify any potential fraud, the less you’ll suffer in the long run. Also, always say "no" to loaning anyone your credit or debit card. You never know if it will end up in the hands of an identity thief.
5. Make sure your computer has up-to-date anti-virus and spyware software. Always install the official recommended updates and patches to your computer’s operating system or browser software. They will help keep your computer safe from any new advances by on-line identity thieves.
6. When shopping on unfamiliar websites, always check out the company first. Click on their trust seals to confirm they are legitimate. Make sure they are a secure site encrypted using SSL.
7. Check your credit report three times a year with all three reporting bureaus for any suspicious activity or inaccuracies. You can do this at no expense by visiting the website www.annualcreditreport.com. Order your report from just one credit bureau the first time and then four months later from the second bureau and four months after that from the third bureau. Learn more on Reading Credit Reports (click here).
Although no one is completely immune to identity theft, college-bound students are significantly more vulnerable. Following these steps will lower the likeliness that identity theft will happen to you or your child.
John Sileo is the award-winning author of "Stolen Lives, Privacy Means Profit" (Wiley, August 2010) and the "Facebook Safety Survival Guide," a professional Financial Speaker and America’s leading identity theft expert. His clients include the Department of Defense, FTC, FDIC and Pfizer; his recent media appearances include 60 Minutes. Learn more about him at www.Sileo.com and www.ThinkLikeaSpy.com to read his blog or book him at your next event.