How to Prevent: Student Identity Theft
College students are hot targets because it’s easy to victimize them. Think about it, even your roommate’s mother could blindside you. With a not-so-private home life on campus, and with so many people knowing so much about you, it’s clear you make a juicy target. If you are a college student, here are 20 ways to prevent identity theft from impacting you.
20) Protect your parents
Its normal to get help from your parents when it comes to financing school, qualifying for loans, and etc. If your parents helped you, then there should be some sort of paper trail. All these documents need to be kept hidden and secure. If they end up in the wrong hands, your parents could also become identity theft victims.
21) Hide your paperwork
You should not assume your documents are safe when living on campus. Find a hiding spot, get a storage unit or locker, or just leave your paperwork with a trusted relative. You already expose enough about you during the length of your course. It could just be a matter of a criminal seeing the right piece of paper to complete the puzzle, making you their victim. Remember, even paperwork like your school grades could include your social security number.
22) Consider your student ID
There is a growing crackdown on the way student identification numbers are generated. In previous years, many schools would take the student’s social security number and add a character. This meant that everyone could gain access to each other’s social security number, without even having to make any real effort. This might not apply to you, but check to see if your student ID matches up to your social security number at all. If it does, make sure to keep your card on lockdown or request a different number.
23) Limit your communications
It’s easy to let information slip when you have a roommate, professor, and school full of people that you trust. But, it’s not always necessary to give up your private information. You do not need to hand over personal identifying information by phone. Make sure anything you give out is in person, and understand why it’s being recorded. Also, be cautious what you include when inquiring to the school by e-mail. After all, something as simple as a server breach could reveal all your personal details to the intruder.
24) Re-direct your mail
You might not feel important enough to bother with paying for a P.O. box. That’s okay, you can still protect your mail from unwanted eyes by redirecting it home. Either that, or list your address with “In the care of” marked for the respective recipient. If you do get a lot of mail, or if your school is in a different city, then a P.O. box might be worth the investment.
25) Secure your computer
As a student, you will connect to public Wi-Fi networks on a regular basis. This puts your computer at increased risk of getting attacked. As such, your school computer should not contain any sensitive information about yourself.
26) Freeze your credit report
It’s generally a good idea to put a ‘credit freeze’ on your credit report. Students will find even more benefit from doing so, as they are less likely to use their credit. The credit freeze will trigger a verification call if your name is ever used towards a new credit line. For better results, you can get a ‘security freeze’ which goes a step further and factors a verification code or PIN to approve any credit changes.
27) Don’t help your roommate
It’s easy to feel the need to help your roommate with simple issues like qualifying for a new cell phone. But, you must understand that now is not the time to take on any liabilities on your credit file. The risks are too high, and you will be the first debt they ignore when things go sour. Plus, if you get a paper bill for their utility, that could be used towards opening fraudulent credit lines in your name.
28) Don’t share your IDs
Once again, helping a roommate or school friend does not seem like a big problem. But, if you let them use your ID cards at any point, this could be a spell for disaster. For instance, if they get stopped by the police or arrested, your ID could get used and your record would become tarnished.
29) Try Credit Karma’s free services
If you are a college student, chances are you do not have much of a borrowing history. If you qualify as a “thin file” then you could get free services from Credit Karma. These services will not secure your identity, but the free credit monitoring does help. And, it’s essentially taking steps to prevent identity theft free of charge.
30) Be careful when using social media
School is a place where socializing with others is considered the norm. Yet, the continuous influx of new connections to your social media profiles can be disastrous. You need to watch out what you say and share while using social media. Otherwise, it’s essential to take the time to categorize your connections by trustworthiness. This is something you can do on Facebook, but most other social media websites do not offer this feature.
31) Protect your documents back home
Remember, an identity thief will strike whenever they are given the chance. This could come up at any point. So, you should make the effort to organize and hide any items back home that contain your personal identifying information. If you want to go a step further, sort through them and shred any that are no longer needed.
32) Don’t carry too many IDs
For the most part, you do not need to keep all your cards in your purse or wallet. Items like your social security number card are only important when they are actually needed. Your student ID will go a long ways, yet it is a hard piece of identification for an identity thief to use Long story short, you don’t need to drop the nightlife fun, just limit what a potential thief can access.
33) Be careful with new relationships
You need to remember that post-secondary schools are just platforms for learning, not fraud shelters. Identity thieves are of all ages, and in fact, most are young adults. This means the classrooms will contain possible fraudsters. Whether you are meeting a new friend, starting a new relationship, or otherwise, make sure you are cautious about what they can access.
34) Track your smartphone
A smartphone is always crackable, do not let yourself be fooled. If someone steals it and gets into your phone, they might gain access to sensitive information. They could also contact your contacts requesting details, and you never know what could slip. But, you can lower the risk of this type of intrusion by using a tracking app.
35) Read articles on the Web
As a college student, you are going to learn a lot about the world. You might find a new interest in the economy, politics, and other subjects that bored your high school mind. As such, you should try and stay up to date on the latest identity theft news. Do a bit of reading, we have many great articles here, and educate yourself on how identity thieves really work.
36) Don’t share browsing sessions
It’s okay to share your computer with friends at school, but you should be careful about how you do it. The best bet is to make a ‘Guest’ account accessible for this purpose. But, it’s even more important for you to not share browsing sessions. Make sure your cache, cookies, and history get deleted before giving up your computer for a lengthy period, unless you are right there.
37) Avoid sketchy credit card offers
You are at the age where it’s a coin flip whether you currently have a credit card. There will be countless offers coming in the mail, including some that say you are pre-approved. You should be very careful with which ones you apply for, as some are complete scams. In fact, it’s even possible for a fraudulent credit card provider to mail an application form in anticipating of your personal identifying information.
38) Don’t throw out junk mail
It might seem harmless to do, but you should not ever just throw junk mail into the trash. Of course, throwing out a store flyer is a different scenario. But, whenever you get any credit card offers or anything else directly linked to your name, it’s best to shred them first. After all, school dumpsters make for perfect breeding grounds for dedicated identity thieves.
39) Avoid sharing a phone
It’s easy to think of all the benefits of sharing a phone with your roommate, but few downfalls are obvious. Yet, believe it or not, it’s possible to become an identity theft victim this way. This is because the use of telephone verification is prevalent in many businesses. This is not just true for places like movie rental stores. With access to your phone, and a lot of information about you, things could take a turn for the worst.