College is a time of possibilities. For many students, it’s their first foray into life on their own, a chance to build new friendships and a prime opportunity to manage finances and build good credit. Unfortunately, though, there’s also risk of identity theft. In fact, many students don’t even know their sensitive personal information has been stolen until they apply for their first credit card or try to rent their first apartment.
You can take steps to avoid being targeted. Whether you’re in your freshman year, a seasoned student or a parent concerned for your child’s well-being, use these tips to avoid personal and financial information from being compromised.
- Memorize your Social Security Number and keep the physical card at home.
- If your school uses Social Security Numbers for student IDs, request an alternative number from your administrative office.
- Ask that your professors or department administrators not use your Social Security Number when publicly posting grades.
- Shred sensitive mail at the school library or in departmental offices, specifically pre-approved credit card offers and billing statements, as identity thieves look for these types of documents.
- Deposit your outgoing mail directly in a U.S. Postal Service mailbox.
- Avoid using Wi-Fi hotspots or public computers (like the ones in the campus library or coffee shop) to surf the web, shop or pay bills.
- Be aware of who’s getting your information at all times. Don’t give out personal information unless you’re absolutely certain of where it’s going and how it will be protected.
- Be cautious about how much information you share—from the school directory to your favorite social media sites.
- Keep your personal information to yourself. Don’t share login and password information with your roommate. Make sure you always store important documents in a locked drawer or file cabinet, and lock your computer when you’re done using it or need to walk away for a break.
Even when you follow this advice, there’s still a chance someone could get ahold of your personal information. It’s critical that you catch suspicious charges early to minimize the damage. This means regularly keeping tabs on your account via online banking and mobile banking,* and reviewing account statements thoroughly. If you do find errors or fraudulent charges, it’s smart to have a recovery plan in place. Learn more about identity theft restoration, as well as how to protect your personal information—both of which can help you secure your personal and financial information.
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