Students heading to college and young adults living away from their parents’ home for the first time are particularly vulnerable to Identity Theft. In a 2010 survey, Javelin Strategy and Research found that young adults, aged 18-24, take the longest to detect identity theft – 132 days on average – when compared to other age groups.
College-bound students should take the following steps to fight identity theft:
1. School mailboxes can be easily tampered with and are not always safe. Instead of having sensitive (bank, legal, personal) documents sent to your apartment or dorm room, have them sent to a permanent address (your parents’ home or the post office) or sent requiring your signature.
2. Invest in a fire-proof lock box to store all your important documents. This can be vital when you are sharing a living space and can’t control everyone that comes and goes. You should lock up your Social Security card, passport and bank and credit card statements. Shred any important financial documents that come in the mail and never leave any sensitive mail lying out.
3. Never answer a friend-in-distress message on email or Facebook. Most likely if a friend is desperate for money, they’ll call you directly rather than contact you online – 99% of the time these are Nigerian scams. Also, never click on an unidentified link that a friend has posted. Check to be sure what you are clicking on is not a virus. Learn more on Facebook and Online Safety.
4. Always check your credit or debit card statements closely for any suspicious activity. The sooner you identify any potential fraud, the less you’ll suffer in the long run. Also, always say NO to loaning anyone your credit or debit card. You never know if it will end up in the hands of an Identity Thief.
5. Make sure your computer has up-to-date anti-virus and spyware software. Always install any updates and patches to your computer’s operating system or browser software. They will help keep your computer safe from any new advances by on-line identity thieves.
6. When shopping on unfamiliar websites, always check out the company first. Click on their trust seals to confirm they are legitimate. Make sure they are a secure site encrypted using SSL.
7. Check your credit report three times a year with all three reporting bureaus for any suspicious activity or inaccuracies. You can do this at no expense by visiting the website www.annualcreditreport.com. Order your report from just one Credit Bureau the first time and then 4 months later from the second bureau and 4 months after that from the third bureau. Learn more on Reading Credit Reports.
Although no one is completely immune to identity theft, college-bound students are significantly more vulnerable. Following these steps will lower the likeliness that Identity Theft will happen to you or your child.
John Sileo became America’s top Identity Theft Speaker after he lost his business and more than $300,000 to identity theft and data breach. His newest Book Privacy Means Profit – Prevent Identity Theft and Secure You and Your Bottom Line is available now. His clients include the Department of Defense, the FTC, Pfizer and the FDIC. To learn more about having him speak at your next meeting or conference, contact him by email or on 800.258.8076.