For many college students the last thing on their mind is protecting their identity. Classes, social organizations, intramurals, and other extracurricular activities are their top priorities. College students can be prime targets because of their clean credit history. They are very susceptible to identity theft and Better Business Bureau (BBB) recommends they take seven simple steps to protect themselves on campus. Just a few steps can help protect the students from the problems of identity theft.
According to Javelin Strategy and Research, identity theft committed against people aged 18 to 24 took the longest to detect--132 days on average--when compared to other age groups. The average cost of losses to this age group--$1,156--was roughly five times more than amount lost by other age groups.
About 6 percent of identity theft reported to the Federal Trade Commission last year involved people 19 or under -- a total of 12,062 complaints. The number jumped to 18 percent for those age 20 to 29, for a total of 37,568 complaints.
BBB recommends that college-bound students take the following seven steps to fight identity theft on campus:
* School mailboxes are not always secure and often can be accessed easily in a dorm or apartment. To combat sticky fingers in the mailroom, have sensitive mail sent to a permanent address, such as a parent's home or a post office box.
* Important documents should be stored under lock and key. This includes your 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 lend your credit or debit card to anyone, even if they are a friend. Just say no if your friend wants you to cosign for a loan or financing for items like a TV.
* Make sure your computer, laptop or tablet has up-to-date antivirus and anti-spyware software. Always install any updates and patches to your computer's operating system or browser software, which help keep your computer safe from new schemes or hacks 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 websites, always check the company out first with BBB online. Also look for a 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.
For more advice on fighting fraud and managing personal finances, visit bbb.org or call 573-803-3190.