Introduction: Identity Theft Protection Tips for College Students
In recent years, most consumers have come to realize that identity theft is on the rise. However, few consumers have considered how vulnerable new college students can be to identity theft. Since these young individuals have only recently started their adult lives, is not uncommon for them to not realize the importance of protecting their identities. According to the Federal Trade Commission, one in five individuals will experience identity theft in their twenties. The reality is that the majority of these cases have occurred when college students neglected to understand the importance of identity theft protection.
Why College Students are Vulnerable
College students are one of the most vulnerable segments of the population in the United States. At such a young age, many college students have no credit history. As a result, they are less likely to keep track of their credit scores. Although some college students take out loans, others are still fully dependent on their parents. Due to this lack of experience, these dependent students are also the most likely to make careless financial mistakes. Unfortunately, these more vulnerable students also tend to have higher incomes. As a result, it can be easier for identity thieves to take out loans in their names.
Get Your Free Credit Report
Few college students realize that they are entitled under federal law to get a free credit report each year. All three of the major credit agencies have a website that enables college students to check their credit online. Plus you can get it at AnnualCreditReport.com By monitoring this information, college students can quickly adapt if they are subject to identity theft. These credit reports can also help college students to learn how to manage their credit history. Another excellent identity theft protection method is signing up for a credit monitoring service which keeps track of your accounts for fraud. You get alerts if suspicious activity is detected so you can take action immediately.
One of the most trusted identity theft protection services is IdentityGuard.com. They even let you try their service out free for 30 days. College students and working adults should take a minute and sign up for their credit monitoring plan. Not only will it help keep you protected from identity theft threats, you will be alerted in the event your identity is stolen and they'll work with you to get things fixed.
College Students Ignore Security
Another reason why college students are more vulnerable is because they tend to be less cautious about financial matters. Since many college students are still supported by their parents, they often perceive financial issues as nothing to worry about. College students are also more likely to be using unprotected mobile devices to access their online banking accounts. For example, a college student might try to check their account information on a public Wi-Fi network. With simple packet sniffing, any malicious user could view this information. In other instances, college students may discard their trash in public areas. As a result, identity thieves could easily steal this sensitive information.
Impact of Social Media
Social media has been another driver of the increased identity theft rates that college students are experiencing. In today's world, many young individuals are not worried about the implications of posting their entire life onto social media channels. Unfortunately, identity thieves can use this information to answer security questions. In many instances, an email account can be hacked by simply knowing a mother's maiden name. Since college students rarely check their credit report, they are unlikely to notice when their identities have been stolen. Therefore, college students are surprisingly vulnerable to identity theft.
Educating Your Child
If you have a young college student that will be headed off to school soon, you should make sure that you discuss how to avoid identity theft. In many instances, simple education can protect a child from the crippling effects of getting their identity stolen. A list of ways to protect your child from identity theft are outlined below.
Use ATM's Safely
ATM's can actually be a source of insecurity. Identity thieves have been known to place take ATM's in areas with vulnerable college students. After swiping their card, called students might be surprised to see that an unusual ATM does not work. However, college students rarely notify authorities about this. With just a few swipes, identity thieves could easily earn thousands of dollars. As a result, college students should never use an ATM around campus that looks out of place. It is also important to keep an eye out for fake scanners, cameras, and other equipment that could lead to identity theft. When typing a pin number, college students should also make sure that they cover the keypad as they type.
Keep Your Room Locked
In many dorm rooms, an open environment is often encouraged. Unfortunately, unethical identity thieves can be anywhere. Some identity thieves can even be college students. For this reason, students should never leave their door unlocked when they are away. College students who live with a roommate should encourage this individual to follow the same practices. By doing this, college students can stay protected from one of the most common sources of identity theft.
Avoid Unscrupulous Vendors
Many college students are looking for ways to save money on their books. Unfortunately, this can often drive college students to purchase books from unscrupulous vendors. Some students are also vulnerable because they are willing to trade security for a cheaper price. College students should never give their credit card information to a company that cannot be trusted. If a website does not use encryption, it should be avoided for e-commerce. In many instances, fake companies are offering unusually affordable prices to entice vulnerable individuals to enter their credit card information. Regardless of the circumstances, unscrupulous vendors should always be avoided.
Avoid Public Networks
Public networks are never safe for sensitive information. Encryption can be a powerful tool for securely checking online banking information on a public connection. However, college students will need to make sure that they avoid un-encrypted websites while on campus. At many universities, the Wi-Fi provided in dorms is actually public. Since anyone can purchase a device capable of intercepting all cellphone traffic in the local area, mobile phones should also be considered unsafe. Avoiding public networks can be a great way to stay safe against identity thieves.
Use Safe Passwords
In today's world, many individuals get their accounts hacked because they do not use safe passwords. Hackers are now using specialized processors that are capable of guessing trillions of password combinations per second. Since few people realize this, victims often use simple passwords that could be found in a dictionary. Other victims use passwords that are only a few characters long. With each additional character, a password becomes 255 times more difficult to crack. College students should always use a password that is at least 12 characters long. They should also consider using a password manager to make it easy to use unique passwords for different accounts.
To learn more about identity protection and ways you can better guard your sensitive information visit http://www.stopidentityfraud.org/2015/08/21/how-do-identity-theft-protection-services-work
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