College students may not perceive themselves as being at risk from identity thieves or needing identity theft protection. After all, most of them don't have much money (so not much to steal) and they're pretty tech savvy about online security.
Those very qualities, however, leave them at higher risk of being targeted by identity thieves, who know how to take advantage of college kids' lack of credit history and use of online media. What's more, college students who feel secure because they're tech savvy may not be aware that a lot of identity theft still occurs in traditional ways, like going through someone's trash, mail or dorm room to steal identifying information.
Several factors make college students ideal targets for identity thieves, including:
-- Lack of a credit history: It's easier to steal someone's identity and establish a credit account if that person has little or no credit history of their own.
-- Use of online social media: Tech-savvy college kids may not realize just how much of their personal information identity thieves can cull from online social networking sites.
-- Dorm/communal living settings: College dorm rooms and apartments may be accessed by a huge number of people every month, many of whom the student won't know at all. It's difficult to maintain a secure environment in such a living arrangement.
-- Easy access to credit applications: Anyone who's ever been on campus has seen the tables, booths and kiosks set up to facilitate credit card applications by students. Completed applications are rarely secure throughout the day, making it easy for identity thieves to get their hands on important identifying information.
-- Laissez-faire attitude: Nearly half of students polled in a survey by Impulse Research said they receive frequent credit card applications, and 30 percent of those students throw away those applications intact, with all their personal information still on it and easily accessible, according to the Web site Scambusters.org. The survey also showed that nearly 30 percent of students ignore their checking and credit card balances, the site reports.
To prevent identity theft, college students should follow some simple steps:
-- Never keep identifying financial information like PIN or account numbers, or important documents like Social Security cards and birth certificates unsecured in dorm rooms or apartments. Don't carry anything more in your wallet or purse than you absolutely need, such as your driver's license, student ID and one credit or debit card. And never loan any of these items to anyone else, no matter how good a friend they seem to be.
-- Be wary when ordering clothes, books, movies and merchandise online and only do business with sites that have the security lock symbol that shows they're taking measures to protect your information.
-- Shred credit card offers before throwing them away and never complete a credit card application at an on-campus table or booth -- even if they're offering a cool free T-shirt just for applying. Instead, go through the credit card company's secure Web site, or contact your bank for a credit card before you get to school.
-- Be aware of who's around you when you're using your cell phone or netbook on campus, and never discuss or send personal information in public that could be used to steal your identity.
-- Establish an identity theft protection account. Sites like ProtectMyID.com monitor your credit reports daily and send you an e-mail, text message, or mail alert whenever something changes on your account, like an address or an application for a new line of credit. If your identity is compromised, ProtectMyID's experienced fraud resolution agents can help resolve issues. What's more, the program protects against the sale of your Social Security or account numbers online by using Internet scanning to detect the use of your personal numbers online.
-- You can learn more about identity theft and how it affects college students, as well as how to prevent it, at www.ed.gov, the U.S. Department of Education's Web site.
Courtesy of ARAcontent© 2010 ARAContent
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