For many students, going to college is the first time they experience life away from home for an extended period of time. However, with this new-found independence comes the responsibility to look after and protect oneself from those seeking to take advantage, since according to information gathered from the Federal Trade Commission, young adults between the ages of 18 – 29 make up the majority of victims of identity theft.
However, the smart college student arms themselves with the knowledge and awareness to detect cases of possible identity theft. What every college student really needs to know is the fact that legitimate business, organizations and banks will never call or ask for sensitive personal information that can easily be used by identity thieves.
College students need to be aware that they are often targeted due to their openness of communication, vulnerability by means of inexperience in securing their personal data and by the many ways their information can be collected. One of the key ways someone can use another person’s identity is by knowing their social security number, date of birth and or driver’s license and address.
Here are some identity theft protection measures all college students need to know to avoid becoming a victim of identity theft.
Invest in a cross-cut shredder
Perhaps chip in with some friends, or buy individually a cross-cut shredder that can be used to shred up any papers with personal data, bank details or credit card applications. College students are often bombarded with credit card applications, and they should be shredded, don’t leave them lying around since anyone can steal them and fill them out instead. Sometimes the effects of identity theft only become apparent five or more years later, when the student starts to earn money. Also, if possible, sign up for on-line statements and bill paying and ask that paper statements not be sent, as others can also get to the mail box first.
Locked lodgings always
Always remember to ensure that whether in or out, the room be locked at all times. It’s still the case that a lot of identity theft happens as a result of someone sealing a wallet or purse from an unlocked room or drawer, so always have this possibility closed and protect all belongings vigilantly. Also, if inviting friends or others over, ensure that all personal details are locked and well-hidden. Perhaps have a locked cabinet or use a safe.
Avoid the free t-shirt scams and others
Throughout college life, there’s bound to be table stands in or near campus, or leaflets spread offering a freebie like a t-shirt in return for filling out a credit card application or the like. Such forms often require personal details like social security number, date of birth and driver’s license number, and should raise a red flag warning sign, and never be completed. Questions to ask would include: what happens to such information gathered? Will it be copied and or securely stored? Could it be a professional-looking scam to gather people’s details?
Fake scholarships or grants
Do be aware from the various appearances scammers use to lure students to give their sensitive data. There have been people on college campuses claiming to be from the U.S Department of Education contacting students to offer scholarships or grants and asking for bank details to charge a certain processing fee for the scholarship. While it is the dream for many a student to receive funding for their studies, don’t be naive and do make sure it is legitimate by calling the Department of Education’s Office or Inspector General hotline at 1-800-MIS-USED (1-800-647-8733).
When using social networking sites, be mindful not share lots of personal data in full view of anyone, since identity thieves often spend large amounts of time searching and collecting data of an individual. Avoid having on display ones date of birth, address and telephone numbers as well as many other more private accounts of information and passwords, and use anti-virus software.
Be wary of scams that try to scare the person to respond by claiming that their account has been compromised or they are in trouble with the law, or even using the audacious ‘someone has stolen your identity’. Such emails will more often than not come with a link to click on, which undoubtedly will direct the user to one of their scamming sites. At all costs avoid clicking links like this in emails, even if they claim to be links to the bank or professional sites, since they can create copy-cat websites.
Keep private data private, and keep a healthy level of suspicion to avoid the scams, and know that whether it be on-line or acquaintances, there are people lying in wait to steal the identity of others, so don’t give out personal data and store such information in a secure place. If a suspicious phone call or text message is received, let others know and hang up.