According to The Financial Times, college students are five times more likely to become victims of identity theft than any other demographic. Security experts have proposed two reasons for this increased risk: College students are living in very close quarters, making them more vulnerable to theft in general, and most do not take the necessary precautions to protect themselves.If your child is attending college, make sure to have a conversation with them about appropriate security measures and the consequences of id theft. Explain that the crime can affect their credit score, bank accounts, medical history and legal obligations. Identity theft can seem like an abstract problem, especially to young people, so it’s important to explain the rationale behind your concern.
Then, give your student the following tips to make their personal information more secure:
- Celebrity websites: Hackers will sometimes create fake celebrity websites that contain malware, so warn your student not to enter unverified sites.
- Email: Students get bombarded with hundreds of emails every week, so it’s important that they know the risks of opening every one they receive. Some cyber-criminals send emails that appear to be from legitimate institutions, inviting the recipient to click on a link. Tell your student to install anti-virus software and be wary of any email that contains spelling or grammar mistakes. Emails that look suspicious should be deleted immediately.
- Free downloads: Students often download free music and games that could contain keystroke logging malware. Files should only be downloaded from trusted sources.
Mobile devices: The typical college student owns a number of mobile devices, all of which contain personal data that could put their identities at risk. Make sure they password-protect their gadgets, so that even if they’re stolen the thief can’t misuse sensitive information.
- Online shopping: It may seem convenient to store your payment information on a website, but it’s really not a secure option. Students who might not have access to stores need to be careful where they enter their credit card information.
- Passwords: College kids tend to reuse the same simple password over and over, making it easy for hackers to gain access to their personal accounts. Everyone should have a unique password for each site they need to access, and the passwords should be long and complex, containing a mix of letters, numbers and symbols. Easily guessed passwords are ones that contain complete phrases, including the individual’s favorite hobbies or school name. If your student finds it difficult to keep track of multiple, randomized passwords, you may want to register for a password manager that can make them safely accessible.
- Public WiFi: Students often do homework in coffee houses and other public places, but they should take care to never access sites, like banking or insurance carrier pages, while they’re on public WiFi. Hackers can retrieve your login information if you’re using an insecure network.
- Social media: Many young people post a great deal of information on their social media pages, which thieves can use to guess answers to security questions. Encourage your kids to use two-factor identification when available and to be aware of what information they’re posting online.
Encouraging your children to take responsible security measures while they’re in school will set them up for a lifetime of good habits.