How can I avoid being a victim of identity theft in college?
Nearly every student at college will have a smartphone or tablet. These handheld mobile computers contain a wealth of personal information at risk if not protected. Identity theft is rising at an alarming rate and campus is a honeypot for cybercriminals. Avoiding common student mistakes will help protect your personal information and digital identity.
According to research, over 15 million Americans are victims of identity theft every year with financial losses of over $15 billion. Over a quarter of all complaints are filed by 18- to 29-year-olds. College students are particularly at risk as they are often a little naïve with the information they share. They are also managing their own finances for the first time so may not be aware of the dangers. Students are inexperienced dealing with online financial transactions which is why cybercriminals prey on them for job, lottery, credit card and investments scams.
To reduce the risk of ID theft, be aware of what you post on social media. Keep your account set to private or friends only and connect exclusively with people you know. Never post anything involving finances or banking on the internet. Over half a million Facebook accounts get hacked every day and it is too easy to pose as an imposter. It is literally loaded with spam, clickbait, malware and fake news and posts designed to lure you.
Campus wifi connections are usually not secure so do not use them to conduct any sensitive transactions. Open wireless routers can be accessed by anyone with the right skills, giving them access to your phone or laptop. Always keep your devices locked with a strong password and do not let anyone else use them. Never leave your phone or laptop unattended around campus.
If you suffer identity theft, immediately notify your bank and creditors, they will be the first target for the scammers. A credit freeze will completely lock down all of your information and prevent creditors releasing your data to other agencies. It is usually free if you can prove you have been a victim of ID theft.
Contacting the FTC to report the incident is advisable. This along with a police report will provide proof of the crime which will help you dispute fraudulent accounts set up using your ID. The FTC will provide a cover letter which you should take to the police to get a further report. These should be sent to banks and creditors.
Changing all of your passwords should be done regularly, but is essential following the compromise of your personal data. Depending on the severity of the incursion, you may have to notify your utility providers and get a new driving license. ID theft is a serious issue so take it seriously.
“Anyone who speaks in the name of others is always an imposter,” Emile M. Cioran.