When you’re off to college, the thought of identity theft is probably the last thing on your mind. But it shouldn’t be!
18% of identity theft reported to the Federal Trade Commission hit people between the ages of 20 and 29.
Identity theft is rife on college campuses
Are you surprised by that stat above? Here’s another surprising reality check: A great deal of identity theft on campuses takes place at the dumpster.
College kids will just dump financial paperwork right in the garbage at the dorm, creating a treasure trove of data for thieves looking to steal someone’s identity.
There are lots of other reasons why college kids and the young in general become targets. Another one of the most common is moving.
Clark recalls moving nine times in four years when he was in his 20s. Your mail can easily go to wrong address and anyone with sticky fingers can just take it, including any financial paperwork that may come through.
In addition, freshmen in dorms tend to just leave their doors unlocked all the time. All it takes is one dishonest person on the floor to do real damage. Financial records should always be locked up!
In 2015, the average amount college-age kids lost to identity theft was $1,156 per incident.
That’s nearly five times more than that the amount lost by any other age group, according to Javelin Strategy and Research.
Here’s how to protect yourself on campus
- Shred all pre-approved credit card offers and other papers with financial info before throwing them away.
- Don’t leave your dorm door unlocked.
- Use OptOutPreScreen.com to remove your name from the mailing list of the credit card companies and insurance providers that like to send pre-approved applications.
- Freeze your credit if you’re really concerned about identity theft.
Additional ways to protect yourself
The Better Business Bureau has the following suggestions…
Don’t share too much info on social networks. Here are five things you should never share on social media.
Don’t loan out your credit or debit card. Never let your card out of your sight! If you’re paying for something for a friend, go with them and pay in person.
Keep a dedicated computer for financial transactions. No surfing the web on your dedicated computer. No e-mailing. And definitely no visiting Facebook or Twitter, as social media is one of the main entry points for hackers today. A good laptop computer will cost you between $100 and $200 these days. Visit our deals page to see what’s available.
Run the most updated virus protection on your devices. Plenty of great free options abound, and we have them listed on our Virus, Spyware and Malware Removal Guide.
Check your credit and debit card statements thoroughly. You need to scour these on a line-by-line basis. Look for any unusual charges. If you spot something, call your bank to discuss.
Check your credit report annually. Experian, Equifax and TransUnion each offer a free credit report once a year. Here’s how to get yours.