As a college student, you’re probably pretty tech savvy. Nonetheless, college students are big targets for identity thieves. Steer clear of identity theft by following these fundamental ways to protect your identity (and your funds) while in college.
Don’t underestimate the danger of oversharing
Sharing thoughts, pictures and activities on social media is commonplace in today’s culture. But posting too much personal information sets you up for possible fraud, because this information can be used to guess passwords, answer security questions or to trick you into giving away information that is confidential.
Continuously checking in at routine locations could also be problematic. If you always “check-in” to your classes or the gym, would-be thieves can learn your habits so they know when to break into your residence to access personal information.
It’s also recommended that you avoid sharing too much with new friends even when face-to-face. This kind of information gathering is a version of social engineering, where victims are manipulated into divulging confidential information like PINs, personal data and more.
Be wise with personal data
Social Security numbers, mother’s maiden name, date of birth, account numbers, PINs and home address can all be used to access your financial accounts or open new ones, so it’s imperative that these details stay as secure as possible.
While guarding personal data may seem like a no-brainer, many may not know all of the ways their data could be compromised — especially considering the lengths some fraudsters will go to get a hold of these details.
Here are some simple steps you can take to protect your information:
- Shred credit card offers and all mail containing personal information.
- Check for card skimmers at the gas pump.
- Leave Social Security cards and birth certificates in a secure place.
- Ensure laptops and mobile devices are locked when they’re not in use and avoid accessing and entering private information on public computers and Wi-Fi.
- Keep PINs and passwords private and cover the PIN pad when entering numbers at the ATM or payment terminal.
- Avoid loaning debit or credit cards to friends.
- Refuse to give personal information or payment to unsolicited callers or emailers.
Act fast if identity theft is suspected
The longer someone has unfettered access to your information, the more damage can be done. Therefore, time is of the essence when identity theft strikes. The first step in dealing with a potential threat, is trying not to panic so a plan can be put in place. Then you should contact local authorities (campus, municipal or county police) to report the crime, and notify your financial institution.
The incident should then be reported to all three credit bureaus, so a fraud alert can be issued. A fraud alert will notify lenders that additional identification is required for credit approval. It also gives you access to one free credit report from all three bureaus.
Lastly, you should change passwords, choose a new PIN, request new debit and credit cards, and continue to monitor your credit report for suspicious activity.