Great Lakes

Ripe for Picking? Students are—by Identity Thieves

October 13, 2017

For numerous reasons, many college students inadvertently leave themselves vulnerable to identity thieves. Share these important tips to help your students avoid being ripe for the picking.

  1. Using credit and debit cards—rather than cash—makes you more susceptible to identity theft. In particular, debit cards provide less protection than credit cards.

  2. Keep credit and debit cards, your Social Security card, and other confidential account information in a safe or preferably locked place so roommates and visitors to your dorm room or apartment aren't tempted to make a purchase or open new cards in your name.

  3. Check your account balances and transactions online at least a few times a week to ensure there are no unauthorized charges, and report lost or stolen cards as soon as possible.

  4. Change your passwords frequently, and don't use something that's too obvious for others to guess. Don't use the same password for everything in case someone does figure it out. Consider using a free app such as Last Pass, to store your passwords and then make the master password something you'll remember!

  5. Criminals love public wi-fi, and college students love shopping and banking online. Don't combine the two, or you're asking for trouble! Use private wi-fi when making purchases, banking, or doing other online activity that exposes your personal information.

  6. Don't use public charging ports in airports, conference centers or parks either. If a port you plug into is compromised, a hacker could access your email, photos, texts, and contacts. Instead, invest in a portable USB battery pack or buy USB cords that don't have wires to transmit data.

  7. Whenever possible—and particularly around the holidays—consider using cash for many of your purchases. Identity thieves like to attach card readers to busy retail checkout lines to get your information.

  8. If anyone tries to open debt in your name, immediately inform the credit bureau that the attempt was fraudulent.

  9. If you believe your identity has been compromised, contact each of the credit reporting agencies to put a temporary freeze on your credit. Remember, you also won't be able to open new accounts or access your credit once you do this.

  10. Take advantage of the opportunity to obtain a free credit report—from all credit reporting agencies—on an annual basis and make sure you take action to quickly remove or correct any inaccurate information.

  11. Shred receipts. It may seem inconvenient and unnecessary, but there are people who might actually pick through your icky college trash to get confidential card information.

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