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Don’t underestimate the danger of oversharing

As a college student, you’re probably pretty tech savvy. Nonetheless, college students are big targets for identity thieves. According to a report from Javelin Strategy and Research, more than 22 percent of college students learned they were victims of identity theft after being denied credit. That’s approximately three times higher than the national average.

The report also revealed that while students are targeted the most, they are the least concerned with 64 percent saying they were not very worried about being victimized by fraud when surveyed.

Since college can be a financially challenging time, steering clear of identity theft is key. Here are some fundamental ways you can 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. According to Javelin Research, students were four times more likely to be taken advantage of by someone they knew. 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:

cover the PIN pad when entering numbers at the ATM
  • 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.

Want more information identity protection strategies? Read more of our financial education articles on this topic or visit your nearest FAIRWINDS branch.

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