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Moving your child to college or helping them enroll locally can be a very stressful experience for both students and parents, without the added worry of potential identity theft. According to Consumer Reports, college students are at a higher risk of identity theft. To minimize their risks, students may need to take additional steps to protect their personal information. Here are a few things college students, and parents, need to be aware of.
Credit cards can open students to risk
According to CreditCards.com, 56 percent of college students have credit cards, while more than 80 percent have a debit card. While some students may wish to hold off from applying for a credit card to minimize debt, it’s important to start building your credit file for things later in life, like applying for apartment leases, mortgages, car loans, and other financed purchases. However, when applying for a credit card at a fair can lead to high interest rates on credit cards and possibly expose sensitive information if the application isn’t guard properly by the booth attendants.
How can students help protect their identity while building credit? First and foremost, apply to a credit card in a secure location and with a company or bank you know and trusts. According to Consumer Reports, some students only learned that their identities were stolen when they were turned down for credit card applications. Second, students need to monitor their own payments to make sure there are no charges not made by them. If these charges go unheeded, it could tank their credit score – a necessary asset.
New people and loose paperwork
Students looking to work on campus will need to file I-9 and W-2 paperwork, so they may be tempted to bring along their Social Security card, passport and other personal information to ease the hiring process. Cinccinati.com suggested students leave sensitive paperwork at home. It can be risky leaving it in a dorm room, with new students filtering in and out of rooms. If students require these documents, they may be able to scan them to complete employment paperwork.
Be careful on social media
As students make new friends, they may use social media platforms to post photos and statuses of their comings and goings. However, posting too much information can alert enterprising individuals when their dorm rooms are empty. Parents can suggest that new college students increase the privacy settings on their social media profiles and to think twice before posting.
Many apps – such as Venmo and Uber – are great tools for students to have, especially if they live in a city. Keeping a credit card associated with these accounts can also help students stay protected. It’s wise to use a credit card, not a debit card, as these accounts can get hacked – such as the case with Starbucks and its rewards program. That way, students don’t have to worry about losing funds they may need for school.
Never give payment over the phone
Forbes contributor Kelly Phillips Erb noted there’s a new IRS phone scam that students, who are away from home, may be more at risk for. She observed that criminals will call and insist their victims were sent several letters that were returned as undeliverable. They will then demand that the victim use a prepaid debit card to “pay off” their tax bill without consulting a tax professional or calling the IRS. This is the giveaway, Phillips Erb observed. If students are asked to give up personal information over the phone – or are asked to provide payment – they don’t have to. The IRS will never demand payment over the phone.
College is an exciting time for students – and there are many new things they may not be used to. That’s why it’s helpful to have a second set of eyes to protect personal information. That’s where Identity Guard can help. We can develop a personalized protection plan that includes credit card monitoring. That way, students can focus on excelling in class, not identity theft.