Recent Graduates and College Students: Take these steps to Help Better Protect Yourself from Identity Theft
Students aren’t typically known for having a lot of money or particularly great credit scores, so why would they be a target for identity theft? The truth is that identity theft is not just about stealing money or financial assets; it’s about stealing personal or financial information and using those details to try and open credit card accounts, secure a loan, and commit other various fraudulent acts.
During this time of transition, a student’s identifying information may be in multiple different places due to life changes such as moving into a dorm or apartment, filling out background checks to sign a lease or activate utilities, or applying for colleges or employment. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reported that 20% of identity theft incidents in 2018 were committed against victims ages 29 and under.
Gone are the days where it was enough to send your college freshman off to school with new bed sheets and a shower caddy. According to the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC), it is equally important to arm them with a document shredder and a locking storage box, as well as the knowledge about identity theft and other scams they may encounter while living on their own for the first time:
- Be cautious with your social security number: Consider keeping your social security card in a locked, safe place rather than carrying it with you. Be mindful of who you share your social security number with; you may be able to provide an identifier other than a social security number when you need to access or open an account. Most schools now use a student identification number instead of a Social Security number.
- Use a parent’s address or P.O. box for important mail: Try to avoid mailing important documents to a dorm or apartment where the mailbox may not be secure. Consider using a parent or relative’s box or getting a post office box.
- Sort and shred mail and documents: Consider getting a shredder for important documents such as bank statements, credit card offers, and anything that contains a social security number or account number (instead of piling up mail where it can be easily accessed by others).
- Secure your laptop and other devices: Store your laptop and other devices in a locking storage box if you leave them in your dorm room or apartment. Try and remember to always log out of secure sites, such as online banking, and ensure your web browser doesn’t automatically save login credentials for sensitive sites.
- Surf and shop sensibly: Websites that don’t use proper encryption can make you an easier target for thieves, so look for the “https” and padlock icon on websites. Avoid making payments on public Wi-Fi because those networks may not be secure.
- Use stronger passwords: Create stronger passwords that would be difficult for hackers to guess, and use different passwords for each of your accounts. Using a secure password manager to memorize your username and password combinations is a smarter and safer option than storing them on your computer.
- Be cautious when sharing on social media: People who share details about their lives on social media sites may post a lot of personal details over time. Its important to remember that fraudsters may have the ability to mine social media posts for information that could help them get past account security questions, allowing them to hack into various sites.
- Learn to identify phishing emails: Phishing emails and texts often try to get you to click on what appears to be a legitimate site but is actually a website controlled by cybercriminals where your personal information may be recorded.
- Monitor your credit reports: If there is a credit report in your name, review it to make sure that none of the information is a result of fraudulent activity. If you find suspicious activity, inform the organizations where fraud occurred about the potential identity theft and place fraud alerts on your credit reports so lenders will be inclined to take extra steps to confirm your identity before opening new credit.
MedCare Complete offers services that can help protect you from becoming a victim of identity theft. Early detection is the key to avoiding the time and expense to undo damage to your digital health.