If you have a college student packing to live on or near campus this fall, now's a good time to talk about preventing fraud while they're away from home. Better Business Bureau (BBB) recommends that they take seven simple steps to protect themselves from identity theft and other fraud on campus.
“Identity theft can affect penniless students as much or more than their parents,” said Michelle Corey, St. Louis BBB President and CEO. “Sometimes a relatively clean credit record can be very attractive to thieves. By establishing good habits for monitoring and detecting fraud, students can establish healthy financial habits for the rest of their lives.”
About 4 percent of identity theft reported to the Federal Trade Commission last year involved people 19 or under – a total of 15, 496 complaints. The number jumped to 15 percent for those age 20 to 29, for a total of 58, 904 complaints.
BBB recommends that college-bound students take the following steps to fight identity theft on campus:
School mailboxes are not always secure and often can be accessed easily in a dorm or apartment. To combat sticky fingers in the mailroom, have sensitive mail sent to a permanent address, such as a parent’s home or a post office box.
Important documents should be stored under lock and key. This includes your Social Security card, passport and bank and credit card statements. Shred any paper documents that have sensitive financial information rather than just tossing them out. Also shred any credit card offers that come in the mail.
Never lend your credit or debit card to anyone, even if they are a friend. Just say no if your friend wants you to cosign for a loan or financing for items like a TV.
Make sure your computer, laptop or tablet has up-to-date antivirus and anti-spyware software. Always install any updates and patches to your computer’s operating system or browser software, which help keep your computer safe from new schemes or hacks by identity thieves online.
Always check your credit or debit card statements closely for any suspicious activity. The sooner you identify any potential fraud, the less you’ll suffer in the long run. Getting your statements online is more secure, but make sure you actually look at the statements.
When shopping on unfamiliar websites, always check the company out with BBB. Look for a BBB Accredited Business seal; click on the seal to confirm it’s legitimate.
Check your credit report at least once a year with all three reporting bureaus for any suspicious activity or inaccuracies. You can do this for free at www.annualcreditreport.com.