Identity Theft Prevention Tips for College Students
Identity Theft Prevention Tips? Did you know Identity Theft has victimized 29 percent of college-aged students?!
Allow me to share with you Identity Theft Tips geared specifically for those of you who are headed to college, or in college, or of that age. Your whole future is ahead of you, and it is yours to protect.
Identity Theft usually leads to a bad credit report. A bad credit report can mess up a lot of opportunities for you, including a possible job. It can prevent you from getting a student loan, an apartment, a car, and someday… a house. Identity Theft Tips – good advice, so you may want to take it.
Identity theft takes hundreds of hours – and a lot of patience – to get it straightened out!
Identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes, and can affect anyone, including you.
So what can you do? Read on to find out why Identity Theft Tips are so important to YOU.
For college students, this may be your first time managing your own finances and fiscal responsibilities. It may be the first time you are responsible for keeping your Social Security card and birth certificate safe.
This may be the first time you are receiving credit card offers for your OWN credit card! (I remember how excited I was when those started coming in the mail!) While this is an exciting time, becoming an adult, it is also a time of greater vulnerability and so important to utilize identity theft tips.
Let me help by passing on some of these identity theft tips, from a parent to a child, from a identity theft victim to a security-minded individual, from a professional:
1) Get your credit reports regularly and scrutinize them. You can get one free report per year from the 3 major companies (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) online. Look for anything suspicious, such as a few numbers off or a few misspellings or wrong addresses. Report these to the agencies. It is wonderful news that these can be taken care of online now!
2) Buy a shredder! But the kind that criss-crosses and can take a credit card without breaking. Shred everything that has any identifying information on it, including credit card offers in the mail! (Of course I mean those papers you are not using and do not need in the future, such as your SS card!)
When I filed my police report, the officer surprised me by informing me that there are people who actually go to the dumps weekly to search for credit card offers and other personal information, simply to use it to compile their false persona! Wow. Buying a shredder is one identity theft tip that I will never forget!
3) Check your statements! Take time each month to look over your bank statements, department store bill, gasoline card statement, etc. If you notice charges you did not authorize, report it to the company immediately. Also, match the charges to the receipts you have so diligently kept. I once was charged $150 dollars for gasoline – and my vehicle took 15 gallons (and back then gas cost closer to $1.50 a gallon). I reported it immediately, and within a month the station was shut down. Apparently I wasn’t the only one who had this problem. Good identity theft tip which may benefit more than just you!
4) Lock up your identification! Buy a small lock box or find a secure, private location to keep your Social Security card, birth certificate, credit or debit cards, and even your online passwords. Keep account numbers and corresponding phone numbers in this safe place as well… just in case.
5) Never give out your information over the phone or Internet unless you trust the caller or have initiated the call. For Internet shopping, make sure the store is a secure site. You know this because the URL line will read with an “s” at the end of “http” (“https://). This goes for online banking as well. Double that for emails requesting personal information verification… Don’t fall for that. If your bank needs updated information, you can go in person.
6) When shopping online, look for and print “Privacy Policies” so you know how your information is going to be shared. I advise you to opt out of all boxes they offer you to click on, as these are tracking cookies. Unless of course you know this site is reputable.
7) Write “See ID” on the back of credit and debit cards where your signature belongs. This will prompt salespeople to ask to see your ID, which is a new tip for me too! Yay! If you have the option of getting a credit or debit card with your picture on it, do it.
8) Keep your dorm rooms locked! Don’t share keys or passes, and if you do lose them, report it immediately! Do not leave personal information out in your dorm. Do not put personal information on your answering machines or voice mail. In other words, do not say “I am gone for a week but will see you next Monday!” This provides opportunity to a criminal – with time to spare!
9) Secure your computers and laptops with locked cables or in locked cabinets. Use passwords with numbers, letters, capitals and small letters, and change them regularly. Use firewall and anti-virus security programs, and keep them updated. I also advise adding a free spyware program and running it for cookies and other information-gathering devices periodically.
10) Pick up your mail every day and sort through it. An overstuffed mail slot is opportunity for a criminal to break in and steal personal information. If your dorm does not offer locked boxes, rent a post office box. Still, empty your box daily… and shred those items with personal information on them!
If you become the victim of identity theft:
1) Report it to the police. a. Notify your Campus Police or the Police Department.b. Get a copy of the police report and keep it in a secure place. You will need it when reporting identity theft to your credit agencies. Keep it forever, because down the road you may need to prove once again that the ding on your credit is not yours and was reported as such.
2) Report it to the credit agencies. Ask them to place a “Fraud Alert” on your file. This will prevent the perpetrator from opening another account in your name, and will require all future creditors to require proper verification.
3) File a report with the FTC. You can find their information at ww.ftc.gov or call them at 1-877-IDTHEFT
4) Finally, close those accounts. When you call, ask to speak to their Fraud Department, and be ready with your police report number. When you open new accounts, use new PIN numbers and passwords, and do not share this information.
To sum this up, the best advice I have been given, and have to give, is this:
KEEP YOUR PERSONAL RECORDS AND DOCUMENTS SAFE.
Identity theft is a personal crime that attacks our finances and credit, but also our reputation. Take these steps, please, to protect yourself. Pass on information to help protect others. Please, let’s all work together to become more security-minded…
After all, your future’s so bright…