This unawareness is not the only reason college students are such perfect targets for fraud. They also tend to have the benefits of very recently built credit histories, live in close-quarters with a large number of people and spend long periods of time online using social media.
Luckily college students are in the business of learning, so increasing awareness about identity theft is the first step to helping them protect themselves. Here are a few more tips for college students:
- Talk to your school: Colleges and universities have a lot of information stored about their students. Always make sure you understand what your college does with the data you hand over, from medical records to Social Security numbers (SSN). Also find out what kind of security they have on their systems and what happens in the case of a data breach. If your school uses SSNs on campus ID cards, ask to be assigned a different number. You want your SSN to be in as few places as possible.
- Don’t carry sensitive documents: If you moved away from home to attend college you probably brought a number of personal documents with you, such as birth certificates, passports and Social Security cards. Remember that you should never be walking around with these documents on your person, without good reason. Either keep these documents in your dorm room in a locked safe, or invest in a bank safety deposit box. Also, before you toss out any documents like bank statements or credit card offers, shred them up, to make sure no one can pull information from them.
- Be secure online: College students spend time online and on social media. Make sure that you are being safe when doing so. This includes keeping your anti-virus software up-to-date to protect your computer, using unique passwords for all your online accounts (especially financial accounts) and using privacy settings on social networking sites like Facebook. Remember, if your profile is public, anyone using the internet can read it. That’s a lot of people to disclose certain information to.
- Avoid torrents and file sharing: Peer-to-peer file sharing might be commonplace amongst college-aged youth, but that doesn’t mean it’s safe. Whether you are downloading music or sharing a document, file sharing creates a weak point on your computer that criminals can take advantage of. Since shared files can’t be officially verified as safe, it’s best to avoid them altogether.
While college students may not have any credit cards, many do have loans. It’s a good idea to keep track of your credit report and sign up for a credit monitoring service. Such a service can alert you when certain activity is detected on your credit files that may be indicative of fraud.