Because college students are so susceptible to identity theft, Better Business Bureau recommends that they take seven simple steps to protect themselves on campus.
According to the 2010 Identity Fraud Survey Report released by Javelin Strategy and Research, more than 11 million people became victims of identity theft in 2009. Young adults aged 18-24 took the longest to detect identity theft—132 days on average—when compared to other age groups. Subsequently the average cost ($1,156) was roughly five times more than amount lost by other age groups.
“Identity thieves don’t care if you’re a struggling student and don’t have a penny to your name; sometimes all they want is to exploit your clean credit record,” said Fred T. Elsberry, Jr., President & CEO of the BBB Serving Metro Atlanta, Athens & Northeast Georgia. “Young adults that establish good habits for monitoring and detecting fraud are laying a path that will help create a healthy financial road for the rest of their lives.”
BBB recommends that college-bound students take the following seven steps to fight identity theft on campus:
• School mailboxes are not always secure and can often be easily accessed in a dorm or apartment. To combat sticky fingers in the mailroom, have sensitive mail sent to a permanent address such as the parents’ home or a PO Box.
• Important documents should be stored under lock and key—such as in a filing cabinet. This includes 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 loan your credit or debit card to anyone, even if they are a friend. Also just say no if your friend wants you to cosign for a loan or financing for items like a TV.
• Make sure your computer has up-to-date antivirus and spyware software. Always install any updates and patches to your computer’s operating system or browser software which help keep your computer safe from any new advances 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.
• When shopping on unfamiliar web sites, always check the company out first with BBB online. Also look for the BBB Accredited Business seal along with other trust seals; click on the seals to confirm that they are 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 by visiting www.annualcreditreport.com. Georgia consumers are allowed two free copies of their credit reports each year from the three major credit reporting bureaus – Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.
For more advice on fighting fraud and managing personal finances visit us online at www.bbb.org/us/consumer-tips-finance.