Identity theft is prevalent in today's society. You hear about the newest data breach on the news or a new phishing scam going around. We've become accustomed to being aware of our surroundings and doing our best to prevent becoming a victim of identity theft. College students are at risk of becoming victims because of their inexperience in living away from home. There's nothing to panic about, but it's important that college students protect themselves against identity theft with these simple tips:
1. Lock your door
Dorm living is an exciting time for young adults. It's one of the first steps towards becoming a full-fledged adult. Many dorm rooms use a traditional lock and key, which can mean that you or your roommate(s) may not consider locking your door every time you leave your room. However, this can be essentially dangerous because strangers can enter your room and start going through your personal belongings to try to find information. This is usually how thefts occur on campus. Locking your door every time you leave is the safest option because it not only protects your belongings from getting stolen, but it also prevents any strangers from entering your room.
2. Don't save personal information on your computer
Hanging out in the library is one of the popular activities for college students. Whether it's for studying or just relaxing between classes, it's important to practice safe habits on your computer as well. Some documents for college require personal information -- whether it's a Social Security number, student ID number, address, bank information, etc. -- so it's important to remove these items as soon as you're done with them. That way, if someone steals your laptop, they won't have access to your personal private information that can lead to identity theft.
3. Don't leave your personal computer alone in a public place
One of the major rule of thumbs is not to leave your computer alone in a public place, even if you're on campus. You may be studying in the library and have to go to the bathroom, instead of leaving your computer alone and open for someone to steal, you should be packing up your stuff to bring with you. Or, if you're with a friend, you can leave it with him/her. Having a computer that's alone is a target to someone who may want to steal it. Computer theft is pretty common among colleges because of this reason.
4. Log out from everything on public computers
If you are using a school computer for a project or even to print a document, make sure that you're logging out of everything before you leave. If not, someone can hop onto the computer and have access to all of your files, documents, etc. that is on that computer. It also leaves you vulnerable because that means the person has access to your printer money, websites you logged into, email, etc. without even having to hack into it.
5. Keep your personal information secret
When using social media, it's important not to overshare your information. By providing where you live, what school you went to, what your birthday is, what your name is, etc., you're giving fraudsters the information they need to steal your identity. Once they get your Social Security number, they have everything they need to start creating accounts in your name.
6. Safeguard your Social Security number
Your Social Security number is the most secret thing you have. Nowadays, it seems like everyone wants to have it, but it's important to filter who actually has that information. Your school will need it for financial aid, but make sure that if they're using that as your student ID number, you request a different one. You don't want to be displaying that around campus. Don't carry your Social Security card around with you either. If you need it for proof of ID for something, that's fine, but make sure you're taking it out of your wallet or purse as soon as you get back to your room. If your wallet gets stolen, that's a winning jackpot for the thief because they can get loads of money when they it to an ID thief.
These tips will help you get in the practice of safeguarding your information. It will also help you understand how easy it is to become a victim of fraud. You're not invincible and it's important to start being safe with your information before you become a victim.