Identity theft on college campuses is on the rise. With the increasing use of technology, students are at greater risk.
To date, the student demographic represents a large percentage of identity theft victims, and most often, students are very unaware that their identity is a prime target.
Identity theft is a crime in which a fraud will seek out personal information of others such as a social security number, date of birth, mother’s maiden name, address, etc., and use that information to obtain credit, receive medical treatment, gain employment or commit more crimes.
Identity theft is a a very real and serious crime. In 2007, according to a December article from Javelin Strategy and Research, on average, identity theft frauds cost their victims $5,574. However, victims of identity theft lose more than their money. It can leave their victims debilitated in their finances and credit history; it can ruin possibilities for finding employment or can bring about a criminal record.
Unfortunately, the make-up of college campuses, and the rise of tech use has become a recipe for identity theft. College students live closely with each other and spend a lot of time on the internet. Additionally, as circumstances may require, they are routinely asked to divulge personal information such as their social security number in order to access files, register for classes, etc.
College students are also targeted because of their known irreverence for safeguarding their personal information. Statistics have shown that a large percentage of students are not diligent in keeping up on their checking account balances or credit card balance and are not careful about destroying documents containing personal information before discarding them. (Impulse Research for Chubb Group Insurance Companies)
Here are some steps to take to protect your identity:
Not keeping your information private, especially over the internet, GREATLY increases your risk for theft. Remember that even leaving documents that contain private information on desks or out in plain view is a way for a fraud to gain access to your identity. You may not always be aware of a theif among the company you keep.
Identity thefts can come as a result of someone craftily sifting through trash. Shred anything with the aforesaid information on it.
Safeguard your computer and computer files with password protection. In each password, use a combination of letters, numbers and symbols, and do not use the same password. If you need to write these passwords down for future remembrance, keep that information in a safe place as well.
Also, do not give in to tantalizing phishing emails that are only devised to gather your information. Do not click on any links from emails from unknown or suspicious senders.
Be weary of using public computers. However, if a personal computer is not an option for you, always empty the history and delete cookies after each use.
Never give out credit card information over the internet if you did not initiate the transaction, and before making any purchases over the internet, be sure that the online store has a secured site before giving up your credit card numbers.
Diligence in this area can alert you to any strange purchases or credit depletion, and with identity theft, time is of the essence. The more oblivious a student is to this, the more time the identity thief has to rack up more infractions against you.
If you feel you are a victim of identity theft, the following actions should be taken:
1. Obtain a copy of your credit report to check for anything out of the ordinary.
2. File a fraud report with the a credit bureau. This will alert any creditors of potential fraud.
3. Research where illegitimate purchases were made and contact contact the companies or credit holders to close accounts that may have been stolen.
4. File a police report.
There are many resources to guide you in developing habits in protecting yourself against identity theft as well as resources that can help you if you have already become a victim, Fight Identity Theft and National Cyber Security Alliance to name a couple.
Most of all, be vigilant. Do not presume identity theft would not happen to you. Your identity is extremely valuable!!!
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