Protecting Yourself From Identity Theft in College

By on July 10, 2018

College is an exciting and challenging time when your head tends to spin just thinking about all the responsibilities that come with growing up and keeping track of your own finances. Unfortunately, you will also need to become aware of of risky behaviors which might lead to identity theft and how to avoid them.

College-aged students are among the fastest growing group of identity theft victims. But anyone can take measures to protect themselves from vicious hackers and identity theft. If you are a college student or know a college student, pass along these valuable suggestions to your friends and family.

College Students are Prime Targets for Identity Thieves

Students are particularly at risk for identity theft, mainly because they have good or clean credit history. And with access to a student’s personal information such as emails, passwords, ID or Social Security numbers, identity thieves can easily secure new lines of credit or hijack your tax-return.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) investigates more than 1.8 million complaints of fraud each year; 15 percent of those cases were directly attributed to identity theft…and thats only what has been reported. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, around 8.6 million American households have had at least one victim of identity fraud among the family member over the age of 12 years old, were identity theft complaints. And finally, in surveys made by the U.S. Department of Education, 48% of the responding students admitted to leaving personal information (some financial in nature) out in open.

Like many other people around the world, college students have accounts on social media networks, however, if they pay little attention to their privacy settings on platforms like Facebook or LinkedIn, they could be sharing just enough personal information, such as an email address or birthdate, for identity thieves to use to their advantage. Not to mention that between classes and socializing, most college students are not as attentive to their credit reports, bank accounts, tax forms and private information. These seemingly banal behaviors may put you at risk for burglary and will buy valuable time for the identity thief to get away with your funds.

Here are some tips to help avoid becoming a victim of identity theft at college:

Managing Your Personal Information

  • Avoid carrying your Social Security card and driver’s license/ID together except for specific purposes like employment on-boarding.
  • Request a student ID number unique from your social security number.
  • Ask your school not to display any of your personal information if they post grade publicly. Or utilize a secured grade post application offer by many institutions.
  • Never use public networks or computers to access online banking, bill payment or make purchases. Always use a secured network for important transactions.
  • Secure your important documents – financial aid paperwork, credit card and bank statements, social security cards, passports etc. in a locked-box.
  • Shred any unwanted documents with your identification information, ie. out dated financial statements, pre-approved credit card offers and bills before placing them in the trash.
  • Be suspicious of solicitors – whether they look like a reputable vendor, don’t give personal financial information or your Social Security number to anyone until you’ve done your research.

Actively Communicate and Share Without Giving Away All of Your Secrets

  • Avoid putting outgoing mail in unsecured campus mailboxes; if you can, deposit mail directly into U.S. Postal Service mailboxes.
  • Limit the amount of information you place on a university directory or social networks like Facebook, Twitter and Google+.
  • Limit who can read your posts, location, cell phone numbers, birth date, etc..

Update Your Computer Protections & Change Strong Passwords Often

There is always a chance harmful malware can find its way into your system to access your personal information. Protect your computer, laptop and mobile devices by –

  • installing and using firewalls
  • install and update your anti-virus/anti-spyware software
  • use secure password-protected wireless networks
  • avoid visiting questionable websites.

Students will be required to create and use passwords regularly throughout their college careers, whether they are in the privacy of their dorm room or a crowded computer lab. And Password, monkey, 12345(etc), qwerty and iloveyou are among the 25 most commonly used passwords. Avoid using these and other common names and dates. As a result, students will want to –

  • create strong passwords for each website, email, online bank account
  • change passwords frequently.
  • be sure to include capital letters, number and symbols, for example: $tr0ng.

Protection Against Identity Theft

As a victim of identity theft, it can be costly to reestablish your identity and retrieve lost credit or funds. Identity Theft Insurance cannot protect you from becoming a victim of identity theft and might not cover all monetary losses incurred as a result. Instead, identity theft insurance helps cover the cost of reclaiming your financial identity, such as the costs of making phone calls, making copies, mailing documents, taking time off from work to manage the claims process and hiring an attorney.

Many homeowners or renter’s insurance policies include or can include identity theft insurance; ask your agent if the policy can extend to any family member living away from the primary residence. If not, you might be able to purchase a stand-alone policy from another insurer, bank or credit card company. As with any insurance policy, make sure you understand what the policy covers and excludes, compare prices, coverages and deductibles among multiple insurers.

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About Amanda Jensen

FSN college advice columnist - Amanda gives parents and students knowledgeable advice on college planning, tuition financing and scholarships. With up to date and accessible information covering everything from personal finances to federal government policies, she is determined to make the college experience a painless one for all party's involved. You can find Amanda on !

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