August 6, 2014

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Identity Theft Is On The Rise for College Students

Last week we talked about protecting your school-aged children from identity theft during back-to-school season. Well, did you know that identity theft is on the rise for college students, too?

According to the Better Business Bureau, college students are the most at-risk group for identity theft. That’s because they make ideal victims for identity thieves. College students have access to credit cards and checkbooks, and typically have squeaky-clean credit histories––things that identity thieves covet. More importantly, they are less likely to monitor their credit reports and/or financial accounts.

As college students are particularly active on social media sites like Facebook, they may inadvertently over-share personally identifiable information including their name, phone number, other social media “handles,” birthdates, and hometowns; the list goes on and on. Identity thieves make it a habit to troll social sites for this type of sensitive information in order to patch together profiles of potential victims. Scarily enough, they can often figure out someone’s social security number when they know birthdate and hometown information. Yikes.

When students are victimized, they may not even know it. Unlike adults who might actively monitor their credit reports and financial accounts, college students might not even know that they should be checking these monthly.

If your kids are in college, here’s what you need to know, and what to teach them, about keeping safe from identity theft.

Financial responsibility. Make sure they learn about responsible financial management. It’s never too late to start, so sit them down today and show them how to set up credit monitoring and regular online check-ins of their financial accounts. Make sure they know how to balance their checkbook, too.

Leave it at home. Passports, bank and credit card statements, and anything that contains passwords or personally identifying information like account numbers, should all be kept under lock and key. Your child probably doesn’t need to bring his or her social security card and/or passport with them to their college dorm or apartment. Rather, have them make a copy of their passport, and take that with them and store it in a locked file cabinet in their room. They should definitely leave their passport and social security card at home with you for safekeeping, preferably in a locked file cabinet or safe-deposit box.

Digital devices. As we all know, our college-aged kids are digital natives––they’ve grown up with smartphones, tablets, and laptops, and are constantly online. Sometimes I wonder if my kids are actually physically connected to their iPhones as well! Remind your kids that their dorm room or off-campus apartment might have frequent foot traffic and even uninvited guests, so they should keep these expensive digital devices securely locked up.

Also be sure that they know to regularly install security and software updates on their devices and to keep them “locked” with passwords in case they are stolen. Different devices should ideally all have different passwords.

Wild and woolly Wi-Fi. I know I’ve written about this before, but I can’t stress this one enough. Teach your kids that just because a Wi-Fi network presents itself on their device, it may not be safe to use––especially when shopping online. Cyber criminals will often set up fake Wi-Fi networks duping unsuspecting users into providing not only their credit card number, but their PIN as well. Tell them to shop via a retailer’s app rather than on their website, and not to leave their brand new credit card information on a retailer’s website for future use.

Credit or debit. Speaking of brand new credit cards, tell them to use their debit card in credit card mode as that offers more liability protection.

Protect Your College-Aged Kids From Identity Theft

It’s important that you take identity theft seriously and maintain the proper precautions to protect the college students in your life. Enrolling your family in IdentityForce’s UltraSecure is a great way to keep your kids safe. Remember, if anything does happen, IdentityForce will be with you every step of the way helping you restore your––or your kids’––identity.

Image courtesy of Flickr user Queen’s College.

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Heidi Daitch

Director, Strategic Programs at IdentityForce
Heidi is a busy working mom who juggles many of the same responsibilities and challenges at home and at work - a long list of things to do and not enough time to do everything. With so little time, Heidi tries hard to find simple, but effective strategies to save time for what’s really important – spending time with her family.
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