No one can prevent identity theft, but there are some ways your college student can make his or her personal information more secure and difficult to steal. It’s also crucial to emphasize to your kids how much of a difference early detection can make in identity theft crimes. Reporting any fraud immediately can cut down on the amount of damage done and make your recovery process much quicker and easier.
Here are some tips for college students interested in protecting their identities:
- Ask your school about how they secure information: Talk to your college’s administrators and find out how your school stores and protects students’ private data. If, for instance, they use Social Security numbers as student ID codes, you should ask to have an alternative number assigned to you. Your school should respect your privacy and be happy to help protect your identity.
- Be careful with peer-to-peer file sharing: Many students use file sharing programs to pass music and documents between computers. However, this can also create an opening for cybercriminals to hack into your device.
- Don’t carry your identifying documents with you: If possible, leave your sensitive documents at home with your parents. Should you need your Social Security card, birth certificate or passport at school, never carry them on your person or leave them laying out in the open. Instead, keep them in your room in a locked filing cabinet.
- Don’t send secure mail through campus mailboxes: Campus mailboxes are typically not as protected as USPS ones, so if you’re sending a check, personal form or banking material through the mail you should take care to leave it in a secure, official mailbox.
- Don’t use a public computer: If you’re using a school computer to do work, refrain from activities that involve personal information like online banking or shopping.
- Lock up your laptop: Make sure you have an updated version of an anti-virus and spyware software on your computer to protect against malware that cybercriminals may use to steal your data. It’s also a good idea to password protect all of your devices and get a physical computer lock for when you keep your device in your room unattended. Never leave your computer or mobile phone anywhere, even if you’re only in the library or the dining hall.
- Monitor your bank accounts: Check your online bank statements regularly and look for any strange or inaccurate transactions. If you see something that looks like a fraudulent purchase, call your bank right away.
- Shred your private documents: Many college students neglect to shred sensitive documents, but it’s extremely important that you do so nobody can steal your identity by dumpster diving. Shred your old bank account statements, any documents containing personal information and even unopened credit card offers that arrive unsolicited in the mail.
- Use a credit card for online shopping: When shopping online, only buy from stores you know and trust, and use a credit card rather than a debit card when checking out. If fraudulent purchases are made on your debit card, you aren’t guaranteed to get that money back.
College is the perfect time for students to start learning about identity fraud protection, since they’re just starting to take charge of their own finances and legal documents. If you’re a parent of a young adult, have a conversation with your child today about the importance of guarding their personal information.