Why Should My Student Be Aware of Identity Theft?
Each year unsuspecting students are targeted for a variety of reasons, including:
- Easy accessibility to their personal information.
- Availability to confiscate credit card solicitations.
- Lack of awareness by students of financial protection measures.
According to the Federal Trade Commission, 18-29-year olds are most commonly victimized by identity theft. A study conducted by Impulse Research Group for Chubb Group Insurance Companies found:
- Forty-nine percent of all college students receive credit card applications on a daily or weekly basis. Many of these students discard the applications without destroying them.
- Nearly one-third of the students rarely, if ever, reconcile their credit card and checking account balances.
- Approximately half of the students have had grades posted by using Social Security numbers*
Although victims can eventually clear their names and credit histories, the process can be time consuming, frustrating and costly. For college students, in particular, who may be starting careers, applying for college loans and making other finance-related commitments, the effect can be damaging in terms of questionable reputations and misleading credit records. During the time it takes to resolve these issues, victims can face lost job and/or loan opportunities.
While there is no guarantee the following measures will safeguard your student from perpetrators, they offer important considerations for identity protection.
Keep personal information to yourself and keep it secure. Don't give credit or debit card numbers, personal identification numbers (PIN) or passwords to anyone. Be aware of where you store a purse or wallet when it is not with you and keep your residence hall room locked when you or your roommate are not there.
Be sure your PIN doesn't use obvious or consecutive numbers and chose your passwords carefully.
Shred pre-approved credit offers and documents containing personal information prior to disposing of them.
Monitor credit card, banking and other statements and report unauthorized activity. Know your billing cycle so you can be aware of bills that never arrive.
Be cautious when asked to give personal or financial information over the phone or Internet. Give minimal information only and question why it is needed.
Don't fall victim to "phishing" techniques. Be wary of e-mails that are seemingly from your bank or other business institutions and ask you to verify or disclose personal information.
If you use the Internet for online banking and/or to make purchases, be sure you have good firewall, anti-virus and spyware removal software. Never use anyone else's computer (especially public ones) when giving personal information.
When using your own computer, never download files sent to you by strangers or click on hyperlinks from persons you don't know.
Consider ordering a credit report once a year to verify your records are in good standing. The three major bureaus are: Transunion (1-800-680-7289), Equifax (1-800-525-6285) and Experian (1-888-397-3742). If your purse/wallet gets lost or stolen and/or your personal information becomes easy accessible to others, contact the bureaus and place a free, 90-day fraud alert on your credit report.
Visit the U.S. Department of Education for more information about identity protection against theft.
*Social security numbers are not used as student ID numbers by Baldwin Wallace University.