It’s time for young adults to head off to college or move away from home for the first time. This is by far the highest risk group for identity theft for several reasons. When these kids leave the nest, it’s the first time they are getting true financial independence, which they might never have been trained to handle. They have access to credit cards, new bank accounts, and they’re managing it themselves. That may be a huge red flag that there’s going to be trouble. Secondly, they’re going into an environment where their stuff is not particularly protected. They’re in a dorm room or apartment, they’ve got roommates that may need extra cash; they know they can take advantage of them. So it’s a high risk environment. The third reason is because they do so much online. There’s so much social media interaction and that’s where tons of information is stolen. Take the steps listed below and talk to your newly-independent kids about implementing them. It will help them out not just this year but will also help them build their financial future going forward. Your identity is pretty much everything in terms of your net worth. You’ve got to take care of it now.
- Secure Your Information: invest in a safe box and lock up any documents that contain private information such as bills, bank statements, checks, and credit card info.
- Be Wise with the Information You Share: it’s our nature to trust our friends, family and roommates but they’re often the very people who assume your identity and wreak havoc with your financial future. Don’t make reference to any information that might be used as part of a password such as your mother’s maiden name, a childhood pet’s name, or the street on which you were born. That could be just the key that unlocks a private account.
- Use Secure Passwords and Don’t Share Them: It’s vital to create secure passwords using upper and lower case letters, numbers and symbols. Be careful when logging in to inadvertently share your password with others (shoulder surfers).
- User Paperless Billing or Get a P.O. Box: you’ll be sure to keep bills, bank statements and other personal information private if your roommate has no access to them.
- Be Careful When Conducting Personal Business: wait until you are alone to call your bank to resolve an account issue or log into your student loan website.
- Log Out of Accounts: if you share a computer, protect your personal accounts with passwords and always close your session by logging out. Though it might be convenient, don’t let your computer store user names or passwords. Keep personal computers locked and password protected when they aren’t in use.
- Beware of Friends of Friends: roommates aren’t your only risk when living with others; remember that although you may have chosen your roommate, you haven’t chosen their friends and you can’t vouch for their integrity. If your roommate has no access to your private information, neither will their friends.
Your credit rating, your financial future, ability to borrow, job opportunities, even a criminal record can all be affected by identity theft. Why take the risk? Do everything in your power to protect your most valuable asset, your identity. Don’t become a victim of “friendly fraud.”
John Sileo is an award-winning author and international speaker on the dark art of deception (identity theft, data privacy, social media manipulation) and its polar opposite, the powerful use of trust, to achieve success. He is CEO of The Sileo Group, which advises teams on how to multiply performance by building a culture of deep trust. His clients include the Department of Defense, Pfizer, the FDIC, and Homeland Security. Sample his Keynote Presentation (he shares how he lost $300,000, 2 years and his business to data breach) or watch him on Anderson Cooper, 60 Minutes or Fox Business. 1.800.258.8076.