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Identity theft can happen to anyone, but as college students you can be especially vulnerable. Student identity theft is happening on campuses across the country. Whether it be a credit card or student loan application, you might be willingly giving out personal financial information without realizing the implications. We’re here to help you keep your identity safe and financial accounts protected so you can focus on more important things like good grades.
Why Are Students a Prime Target for Identity Theft?
First off, you might be wondering why as a student you can be such an easy target? There are a few reasons:
- Because typically as a student you’re just starting out with financial accounts and sensitive matters that involve your identity, you’re more vulnerable to scams. From exciting direct mail offers for a student credit card with no interest, to tables set up on campus incentivizing you with gifts. Too good to be true can turn into too little too late.
- The process of managing your finances takes some time to get used to as well. For example, you might not be reviewing your bank statements to check for unusual activity as often as a graduate or adult might be.
- Finally, with the rising costs of college, many students are applying for multiple lines of credit to survive. This gives hackers more chances to snatch your data. And thanks to technology, students are applying for credit cards, loans and peer-to-peer lending services online, which creates even more vulnerabilities.
5 Tips Students Can Use to Stay Safe Online and Protect Their Identities
How can you be proactive to ensure you aren’t the next victim of student identity theft? Here are five easy to implement tips to give you (and your parents) peace of mind.
1. Sign Up for a Credit Monitoring Service
We know as a college student you are busy studying and distracted having fun, so signing up for a credit monitoring service can help put a watchful eye on your accounts. Why not have someone staying vigilant of any fraudulent or suspicious activity on your behalf?
2. Get Identity Theft Protection
Identity theft protection is another affordable service that can prevent a massive headache for students and parents (our recommendation is IdentityForce). As college kids, you have enough stress already, so having your identity stolen shouldn’t add to your concerns. Before signing up, be sure to check with your school’s alumni group or other student-organizations for possible discounts. (Bonus: Get your parents to sign up for a family plan to save on multiple users.)
3. Use a VPN
Coffee shops, dorms and other public areas are magnets for spying eyes that wish to steal valuable data via unsecured WiFi networks. VPNs (or Virtual Private Networks) create a secure, encrypted connection that allows you to surf the web from anywhere.
4. Take a Shredder to Campus
While it might attract some questions from your new roommate, bringing a shredder on move-in day is a great idea. Students tend to have lots of paperwork with their names, birthdays, social security numbers and other sensitive data, so shredding these confidential documents is an excellent and cost-effective way to protect you from potential identity thieves. Shred often, or find a way to safely dispose of mail and other documents. Better yet, sign up for paperless statements and use a service like PaperKarma to help cut down on clutter.
5. Use Strong Passwords & Change Them Often
Yes, we know you have enough on your plate without also keeping track of complicated passwords. But guess what’s even more time-consuming? Dealing with the consequences of having your identity stolen. Thankfully password managers like LastPass or Dashlane can keep all your passwords safe, encrypted and memorized, making logging into your favorite websites via autofill easy and secure. Password managers are a lot safer than jotting your passwords down on a loose piece of paper, or worse, setting them all to be the same, both of which make a hacker’s job easy.
Video: College Students Major Target for ID Theft
Watch this video from WWLP 22 News in Springfield, MA to see why thieves go after college students (hint: they want their clean credit). They also share some additional tips both students and parents can take to stay protected.
More Resources on Identity Theft
We hope these tips help, but if you want to learn more and advance to ID Theft 102, check out everything you ever wanted to know about identity theft for a syllabus on various topics.
Before class adjourns, any questions?