One of the last things any college student is thinking about is identity theft. That’s the very reason they’re one of the most targeted and least prepared to deal with identify theft. We’d like to change that and inform college students on how they can protect themselves from a catastrophic battle with identity theft and fraud. This guide will show the signs to look out for, how students are taken advantage of and how to be proactive in protecting their identity.
Identify Theft on the Campus
Parents are rightfully concerned about a lot of things that might go down on a campus. Make sure to stay safe, don’t travel alone at night and take preventative measures not to get them hurt or robbed. One of the ways they often forget about is the possibility that their college student may have their identities stolen.
As a college student, you may be thinking you don’t have to worry about contending with identify theft. It isn’t that you don’t know it exists, it just wouldn’t happen to you. For example, some of the rationale behind this is the fact that you’re paying student loans, living expenses, and most funds are either tied up or spent on going out and having a good time.
At this point you may be thinking there is nothing to take from a modest little college student. You’d be wrong. The most important asset you have to an identify thief is simple, your very identity. There is a numerous amount of personal information that includes accounts, social security numbers and licenses that belong to you.
Why Thieves Target College Students
Thieves want to take your young and malleable credit history, identity and use it for nefarious purposes. Students don’t realize the potential threats all around them. They casually leave important documents around, mail comes and go with sensitive information with people you may not know that well. The very factors of college life begin to add up and contribute to why students make excellent targets.
College is an exciting time that’s filled with a fast paced schedule, meeting a ton of people, studying, going to class and being social. During this time there are a select few innocuous daily things you do that can be a point of identity theft.
- On top of the everyday whirlwind of life, you’re dealing with the use of your credit cards, ID cards to get in bars and situations where you might not be fully in control. These are opportune times for a thief to strike and make you a target.
- Credit records and scores for the most part at this time are pretty much blank and can be used to secure new lines of credit easily. Identity thieves are focused on
Common Ways Students Make Themselves Vulnerable
On top of the inherent factors that make you a prime target are other ways college students make themselves more likely to lose their identity.
- Living on campus in the dorms and with other roommates gets rid of a layer of privacy where you can operate your own computer in privacy, type in passwords, look at bank information and into other sensitive data you might have.
- Ordering anything over the Internet and putting in your payment information and address to that location. If it gets intercepted, that means your name; address and other sensitive information can be looked at.
- Throwing away mail without properly shredding or disposing of it correctly.
- Talking on the cell phone and disclosing personal information to friends or loved ones that can be used against you by any nearby eavesdroppers.
- Leaving important documents lying around like student pin numbers, and other important enrollment documentation.
Research has been conducted to see what college students do when they receive credit card applications. Over 30 percent of students were found to throw away the applications with the original information on it untouched. Personal information like this can find its way into the wrong hands quickly. Among the same amount of college students completely ignore their checking account and credit card balances online, meaning they have no idea what they have or owe. This is a prime time to attack an unsuspecting uninformed student.
Colleges at Fault
Most of these examples put the blame on the college student. While they are responsible for themselves, other factors can play a major role as well. One of the worst practices a college can do is to identify students by their Social Security Numbers. Student ID numbers are used on nearly anything you can think of. This breeds carelessness into using the number.
ID numbers appear on class rosters, copied onto ID cards and these are constantly shared between students. Just one whiff of this and an identify thief will be all over this. There are steps you can take to counter any inept practices your college may partake in.
- Never publicly display your name, address, phone number, bank account, credit cards, or Social Security number in any way not deemed necessary.
- Keep your identification on you at all times. This includes your license, student ID and any other personal identifying documents you may have.
- If you live on school grounds invest in a safe or lockbox to store sensitive items. Don’t tell anyone where or what it is.
- Never leave your wallet unattended.
- Don’t let your roommates or visitors see where you store your most valuable items.
- Keep your room or main door locked at all times, if not attended to.
Thieves in Our Midst
Most college dorms and surrounding apartments have a certain degree of safety to them. But burglaries are a reality and can occur unexpectedly. A majority of college identify theft is actually done through people college students may know.
If a student uses a system that requires email verification on a shared computer or even shared streaming system, this can be taken advantage of by a third party to their advantage. Students who may be authorized with a parent’s credit card can then be taken and used by a friend or roommate.
While college students may not suspect their current friends or roommates currently, problems can occur and resurface later that may show a different side of somebody. Even if you’re no longer in touch with that person, there is the possibility of them holding on and using some information they have about you in a later date.
Protecting College Students Online
Every single college student uses the Internet that is just a fact. Online grades, databases and emails are a fundamental part of college. Even without using online tools given to you by the college, students use the Internet in many different ways. They’re most likely to spend the most time on it then other age groups.
When college students create profiles and become part of communities, they open themselves up to eventual predation. The idea is not to stay away from online communities and accounts, as that’d be impossible, but instead to tread with caution about the information you post.
Social media can be a great tool for connecting and a place to share things about yourself. If public or in the wrong hands it could be a means to deciphering and taking your identity. There are a few things to keep in mind and keep you safe on the web.
Proactive Steps Online
Remember that whatever you post on the Internet, whether or not you delete it, or think it has privacy settings; once it’s online it is on the public domain forever. If you’ve ever searched someone you know may how easy it is to find someone with limited information. There are some major steps you can take online to take care of yourself in this environment.
- Do not display your entire full name in an online profile if you can help it.
- Do not disclose your exact home address or current place of residence.
- Only use reputable sources online when shopping.
- Do not respond to email spam that asks for money under any circumstances. A reputable source will never ask you in this way and they’ll do anything to try to take your information. Apply the correct spam filters.
- Always log out of whatever email, social media or website you were originally on.
Full Identity Protection
The first step is realizing that a college student is not only a target, but also a prime target for identity theft. There are reasons college students are selected because of their busy lifestyles and often careless or oblivious attitude to matters of personal identifiers.
By being proactive and cautious in matters of identity, college students can protect themselves from being targeted. If you take conscious note of the day to day activities you do, you can look for cracks in privacy that can be taken advantage of. If college students take these steps they won’t get affected by an unknown but very common event of getting their identifies stolen from them.