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Roommate Identity Theft? Beware and Be Wise

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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.

College Identity Theft Speaker

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I’ve got a neighbor who’s going back to college this week and reminds me that this is by far the highest risk group for identify theft and it’s for a couple of reasons.  When these kids are going off to college, it’s the first time they are getting true financial independence, which might never have been trained to handle.  They have access to credit cards, to new bank accounts, and they’re managing it themselves.  That’s a huge red flag that there’s going to be trouble.  Number two, they’re going into an environment where their stuff is not particularly protected.  They’re in a dorm room, they’ve got roommates that may need extra cash; they know they can take advantage of them.  So it’s kind of 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 ton of information is stolen. So you need to take some of these steps that are in this blog post.  Help your students take them.  It will help them out not just this year in college but helping them build their financial future going forward.  Your identity is pretty much everything in terms of your net worth. You got to take care of it now.

John speaks professionally about social media privacy and identity theft to college students.

College-Bound Students are Vulnerable as Identity Theft Targets

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.