Posted on: Sep. 05, 2017 in Identity Theft

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reports there were nearly 400,000 identity theft complaints in 2016. This is a growing threat to individuals of all ages, but college students are exceptionally vulnerable. In 2014, the latest available data of this type, 22% of college students were alerted that they had been a victim of identity theft. Most found out after they applied for credit and were denied or a debt collector contacted them.


For college students, identity theft is particularly troubling. Many can find themselves unable to get the credit they need and deserve because someone has already damaged their credit history. They may find themselves fighting with creditors for debts they didn’t incur. Their own bank accounts may become inaccessible. They may have trouble securing an apartment or a job. They may not be able to access health insurance if that has been stolen. They can also be arrested for crimes they didn’t commit if someone is using their identity to commit additional fraudulent activities. And then, to make matters worse, these students often lack the experience and resources necessary to sort this all out on their own.

What makes college students more susceptible to theft? There are a number of contributing factors. First is that many don’t take the proper precautions to protect themselves either because they are unaware of the threat, they don’t think it could happen to them, or they are trusting of others. Another factor is that many students are sharing living space with others whom they do not really know.

If you or someone you know is headed to college, here are some tips to help them protect themselves from identity theft.

  • Secure your personal information, even in your dorm room. Dorms rooms often host many visitors, including people you may not know well or at all, so be extra careful about leaving bank and credit card information, or your Social Security number, accessible to others.
  • Avoid public (unsecured) wi-fi. Don’t shop online, check your bank account, or log into your credit card account unless you are on a secured network.
  • Don’t apply for credit at a booth on campus. Filling out all of your personal information in public is dangerous. Instead, visit the company’s website from a secure Internet connection.
  • Shred credit card offers. If you receive any pre-approvals for credit cards, shred them rather than just tossing them in the waste basket. Thieves could take these and apply for cards in your name.
  • Use strong passwords. Don’t make your passwords easy to guess by using birthdays, nicknames, pet names, or something else that can easily be discovered.
  • Use social media carefully. Don’t click on links sent to you from people you don’t know and be cautious even when you do know the source. Even simply opening a link can infect your device with malware giving thieves access to your personal data. Also, don’t give away details that could help a thief learn more about you such as where and how you bank or what your password might be.
  • Don’t share your devices. Secure all devices with a password and don’t share the devices with others. Don’t store personal info on your smartphone or laptop. When you’re not using your devices, store them securely in a locked area.

It’s tough to protect ourselves completely from identity theft, but we all must work hard to keep our information as safe as possible. Even in communal living situations like dorms and shared apartments, privacy and security are a must. Identity theft can ruin your credit for years to come, just when you’re getting ready to be out on your own. Protect yourself now before it’s too late.

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