College Students Face High Risk of Identity Theft

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August 25, 2016

Subtitle: Thieves use high and low-tech strategies to steal personal information

Just like the opposite end of the age spectrum, college students are also at risk. Parents often overlook the fact that young children are often at risk. And sad to say, most identity theft of young children is done by their own parents. This is an article by Jonathon Berr:

College students and their parents probably don't spend much time worrying about identity theft when they think about navigating the minefields of university life. But as students head back to school this fall, they should take precautions to prevent their identities from being stolen. 

According to the Federal Trade Commission, there were 490,000 complaints about identity theft filed in 2015—a 49 percent increase over the prior year. Households headed by individuals aged 18 to 24 were far more likely to experience identity theft.

An even more disturbing report from Javelin Strategy and Research found that 22 percent of students in 2014 were notified that they had been a victim of identity theft fraud after they were denied credit or contacted by a debt collector. That’s three times higher than average fraud victims. Moreover, students were four times more likely to be taken advantage of by someone they know compared with other consumers, according to the market researcher.

Identity thieves use a variety of low- and high-tech strategies to steal a student's personal information. They range from "shoulder surfing," in which a criminal looks over a victim's shoulder to see his ATM personal identification number to sending out bogus credit card offers that ask for detailed information.  

Take Precautions

Guard your numbers. Personal information that could be used by fraudsters such as Social Security numbers, ATM codes, and computer passcodes should only be given to people on a need-to-know basis and to as few people as possible. Never carry your Social Security card and driver's license together and never lend an ATM or credit card to anyone. 

Be careful sending important documents by mail. Don't send important documents to dormitories and off-campus apartments where mail might not be secure.

Avoid pubic WiFi. Don’t pay bills on public computers in libraries and try not to use public WiFi connections which may not be secure.

Be savvy on social media. Many students are so comfortable sharing their lives on sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and SnapChat that they give away too much information too easily. Meredith Krisher, Security/Process Improvement Manager with the Ohio State's Student Life Technology Services, notes that fraudsters can mine social media posts for information that could help them get past account security questions on various sites.

"Trusting, oversharing, and not adequately protecting access to their electronic devices are probably the most common mistakes that students make with regards to disseminating their personal information on social media," says Krisher.”

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