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The start of a new college year should always be an exciting time, even when engaging in seemingly mundane but necessary activities like buying all of one’s necessary textbooks. Unfortunately, textbook sales have, in recent years, have become a channel through which malicious scam artists steal college and university students’ personal and financial information. The Federal Bureau of Investigation recently released a notice about this phenomenon due to the frequency with which it began to occur in the spring of 2017.
This is merely one way in which college kids can be susceptible to online fraud. Their financial history exists largely as a clean slate – making it an attractive target for internet scammers. Keeping this in mind, students should keep themselves informed regarding new and existing warning signs of identity theft within the college environment, and act accordingly to protect themselves.
Avoid the “Campus Bookstore Scams”
According to the FBI’s account, bookstores at numerous colleges have been reporting financial losses in the thousands of dollars during the past year, reaching a fever pitch in April 2017, stemming from fraudulent purchases. Typically involving expensive electronic devices, thieves in these situations gain the confidences of students by claiming to be college kids themselves who’ve lost their student IDs – which are often required to shop at college bookstores – and then use borrowed IDs and stolen credit card information to make purchases.
The FBI’s Campus Liaison Program helps combat such scams by distributing Bureau information to campus police departments. The CLP distributed notices to campuses all over the U.S. warning students not to help someone out whom they don’t know and claims to lack a student ID, and suggesting that bookstore staff establish verification to ensure customers aren’t buying anything using a card in another person’s name.
Watch out for other ID theft methods
The flimflam scheme detailed above is just the latest method through which college students become the victims of online fraudsters. Speaking with USA Today, Experian director of public education Rod Griffin stated, “When people go to college today, they are independent for the first time. They are wide open. They tend to be very trusting and that poses risks for them.”
Particularly for new students, it’s extremely easy to get wrapped up in the hustle and bustle of getting one’s college career started, and they might neglect to stick to any identity theft avoidance tips their parents taught them or that they learned elsewhere. These acts of understandable (but nonetheless unwise) forgetfulness include failing to secure important personal documents and cards in a personal safe or safety deposit box, using weak passwords, browsing the web on unsecured Wi-Fi networks, keeping their dorm room doors unlocked and not being vigilant for email phishing scams.
Any of these mistakes can lead to financially catastrophic consequences, like a besmirched credit report and FICO score as well as massive debt. College students might not even learn about such debt until it’s too late and they receive debt-collection notices and calls.
How students can protect themselves
The first steps collegians can take toward their own identity theft protection are, of course, avoiding all of the mistakes described above. According to Consumer Reports, avoiding public Wi-Fi in unsecured places, like coffee shops, is essential because identity thieves could collect financial information while using the shared Wi-Fi. The publication also recommends exercising extreme caution regarding what students post on social media platforms, and also what they click on – Facebook posts and tweets can feature the same phishing-scam links as any email.
Identity theft is a serious risk for college students, but it doesn’t have to ruin their experiences of higher learning. Contact Identity Guard to learn more about fraud protectionmethods that collegians will find particularly valuable.