With exams, demanding new schedules, challenging professors, all-night study sessions and learning to balance adult responsibilities while not quite being an adult, college students deal with stress semester after semester. But one all too common and many times preventable cause of stress is identity theft. Identity theft happens to unsuspecting college students more often than one might think. And unfortunately, the thief is often times a friend or acquaintance, so students have to be particularly vigilant with ID protection.
The good news is that while identity theft isn’t completely preventable, there are many simple steps that students can take to protect themselves and reduce their risk of falling victim to ID theft.
Maintain a permanent mailing address. Most college students move two or three times in the few years they are in school, so keep your parent’s home address for important mail or set up a P.O. box (many campuses have post offices, which makes this very convenient).
Never loan a debit card or credit card to a friend. You may truly believe that they are honest and have the best of intentions, but just don’t do it.
Keep track of your account balances. You’re a busy college student, but if you’re too busy to ever double check your bank and credit card accounts, you’re the perfect target for a thief.
For privacy protection, don’t leave important documents out, unsecured, where they could be seen or stolen. Always keep important documents stored securely away. Social security cards, birth certificates, passports, etc., should be locked up – either at your parent’s house or in your home or dorm room. Never leave bank statements, credit card bills, insurance statements, etc., in plain sight where they could be viewed or stolen and always shred credit card offers.
If you’re like most college students, you’ve got your laptop with you everywhere – coffee shop, library, friend’s place or the park – but you have to be very careful using WiFi because your private data could be accessed by hackers. Make sure that your anti-virus and spyware software is up to date and keep your computer locked with a difficult password. If you’re using a public computer, be sure that you don’t save any passwords on and do not make any online purchases using a public computer.
Shield identity theft by being careful about what you post online. Most college students practically live online with blogs and social media sites. Just be very careful about the information you share online. Don’t share your address or other personal data. Don’t respond to surveys asking for personal information. Don’t fall for email hoaxes asking for money and only shop from reputable merchants.