Young adults head off to college hoping they’ll learn enough in the classroom to get their degree, and enough about life to make their way in the world once they graduate. But firsthand knowledge of identity theft is one lesson they don’t want to learn.
College students have little credit history, and often lax protection behavior, making them an easy target for identity thieves. So before you head off (or send your child off) to college, here are important identity theft protection tips to remember (provided by Experian.com):
- Always keep your dorm room or apartment door locked, even when you’re home. Most identity theft still occurs in mundane, nontechnical ways, like a wallet being stolen from a drawer or a purse taken from an unlocked room.
- Be careful with documents that contain personal information. Shred bills, and keep credit card and bank account statements stored in a safe, locked location.
- Leave your Social Security card and birth certificate at home, with your parents. You’ll need your SSN constantly in college, so you should have the number memorized. Be careful about how you use it and who you give it to; they should have a legitimate need for it. Only carry with you the ID that you actually need, like your driver’s license and student ID card. Never loan those items to a friend, no matter how close you think you are.
- Be wary about who you allow in your room. Remember, anyone who enters your living space could gain access to your personal information.
- Be careful what you share on social media. Never expose personal information such as your date of birth, home address, phone number and unique information like your mother’s maiden name which is often used for authentication.
- When making online purchases, only do business with websites that have the security lock symbol. The symbol indicates the website has taken measures to protect customers’ information.
- Never complete a credit card application at a table or booth on campus. Instead, go through the credit card company’s secure website or contact your bank before you go to school.
- Monitor your accounts and credit report regularly. Not only will regular monitoring help you identify possible occurrences of identity theft, it can help you better understand how the financial decisions you make affect your credit score.
With some preventative steps and prudent caution, college students can ensure identity theft is one thing they don’t learn about the hard way.
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