It can be easy for college students to disregard financial matters like their credit scores* and reports, but poor financial habits at a young age could leave many at risk for identity theft. In fact, college students may be particularly susceptible to identity theft because their personal information can be more easily available to identity thieves — and also because some college students can be careless with that data.
Common Risk Factors for Identity Theft
College students can sometimes be unaware how available their personal financial information can be to identity thieves. For instance, if they use a personal computer to conduct online banking, store critical data or shop, they may be at risk for identity theft. The same holds true for students who have taken out a loan to pay for their education or use their Social Security number for identification at their school.
However, there are a number of steps college students can take that may lower their risk for identity theft:
- Shred credit card offers — Data from the U.S. Department of Education says nearly half of all college students receive credit card offers in the mail, and many simply throw these mailings out without properly destroying them. It’s best to shred pre-approved credit card offers before throwing them out, as that will prevent identity thieves from using the application to obtain a credit card under an assumed name.
- Don’t use Social Security number as an identifer — The Department of Education reports 50 percent of students have their course grades posted alongside their Social Security number. That could provide identity thieves with easy access to that vital figure, making it important for students to ensure their college doesn’t use their Social Security number for identification purposes.
- Send mail through U.S. Postal Service mailboxes — College students paying a bill or mailing out financial information for any other reason should only use official USPS mailboxes, since campus mailboxes may not be as secure.
- Take care with public computers — College students should avoid using a publicly available campus computer to pay a bill or shop online, since some browsers may automatically save their username, password or other financial data.
- Guard passwords and financial data — Students should avoid carrying their Social Security card in their wallet, and they should be sure no one else knows their passwords or PIN numbers. Ultimately, the best way to help protect against identity theft may be to guard this personal information more carefully.
- Invest in an identity and credit monitoring solution — Identity Guard® offers identity and credit protection solutions for adults and kids. It’s worth looking into if you want to receive automatic, proactive alerts to certain changes appearing in your credit file, public record report, and more.