If you have children attending college, talk to them about identity theft protection so they can experience a fun, productive and secure spring semester.
College students are disproportionately vulnerable to identity theft. In fact, the Federal Trade Commission reported that almost one-fourth of all id theft complaints in 2013 were filed by individuals in their late teens and early 20s.
Not only are college students at higher risk for becoming victims of identity theft, they’re also much slower at detecting the crime. Javelin Strategy & Research reported that college-aged Americans take nearly three times longer than any other age group to detect and report identity theft. The average case went on for 132 days before the victim filed any complaint.
No one can prevent identity theft completely, which is why early detection is key to minimizing damages. Talk to your college student about why they’re at higher risk than the average citizen. Here are the top reasons:
- Colleges can be careless: Some schools use students’ Social Security numbers as ID numbers, posting them on class rosters and ID badges.
- Most students aren’t informed: Most young people don’t have the information they need to protect their identities, and still more don’t realize that their identities are even at risk. In a study conducted by the Identity Theft Resource Center, only 21 percent of students thought they were at moderate to high risk for identity theft, whereas 74 percent of their parents believed them to be. Parents have years of experience protecting their own personal data, so it’s absolutely crucial that they speak with their children about the consequences that id theft can have on anyone’s life.
- Their credit reports are blank slates: Students are prime targets for identity thieves in part because their credit reports are largely blank. They haven’t had time to accrue any debt, and at the most they may have student loans. For this reason, criminals can use their information to easily open new lines of credit.
- Their mail is vulnerable: Campus mailboxes aren’t as secure as USPS ones, so tell your child not to have sensitive information mailed to them.
- They live in large groups: Living in dorms and with roommates leaves your child’s personal information more exposed than its ever been. Close proximity to a number of people means you have to pay more attention to security measures.
- They order things online: Most young adults order a good deal of products online, because they might not have access to a car or stores while they’re in school. This is convenient, but it can also leave them open to theft.
- They tend not to check their accounts: Many students don’t keep a close eye on their financial accounts, which means they’re less likely to spot any fraudulent charges that might be made in their names.
This is why it’s so important to have a conversation with your child about fraud protection, because college students’ living situations and typical behaviors make them more vulnerable than the rest of the population to identity theft.
As an adult and a parent, you understand much more clearly the consequences that such a crime can have on a person’s life, from the loss of time and money in sorting out fraudulent claims and transactions to the stress and anxiety produced by becoming a victim. You can make a huge difference by urging your children to be on the lookout for any signs of theft, and to do as much as possible to protect themselves.