10 tips on ways to avoid identity theft at college

Identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in the country and the 18-24 year old age group of consumers is often hit hard by identity thieves. Each year, thousands of students go off to college and are unaware of the numerous threats to their identities that exist on campus.

Intersections, a provider identity risk management services, recommends the following tips for college students and their parents to proactively protect their identities:

1. When using campus computers and Wi-Fi hotspots, be aware that they aren’t always secure. Ensure you are using encryption (i.e. anti-key logging software, or password protection) to scramble communications over the network. It is best not to view personal information on open campus networks.

2. Keep your information secure by changing your passwords frequently. Keep your anti-virus and anti-spyware software up-to-date with the latest releases. And if you’re using your laptop around campus, always take it with you to ensure your hard drive isn’t compromised.

3. Credit offers abound on college campuses. Walk through a student union and you can stop and smell the free t-shirts, water bottles, and key chains that banks offer college students when they sign up for credit cards. While it’s a great idea to start building credit, read the offers – and the fine print carefully – and understand exactly what you’re signing up for.

4. Social networking sites are hot spots for most college students. Reveal as little as possible about yourself, especially family name, address, phone numbers, date of birth – identity thieves only need two or three pieces of this information to steal your identity.

5. Protect and memorize your Social Security number. Don’t carry your SSN card with you, and if your college uses Social Security numbers as student IDs, request they generate a random number instead. Most schools will do this when asked.

6. Invest in a good cross-cut shredder and properly dispose of all personal and financial materials. Be aware that information you receive contains personal information that, if stolen, could have serious ramifications. Credit card offers you receive in the mail should be shredded. Bank statements, tax documents – and other documents with personal information – should be securely stored until it is appropriate to shred. And never leave this information out in your dorm room or anywhere it could be compromised.

7. Online shopping is convenient, but be sure the sites you use are secure by looking for “https” in the URL. Check with sites’ privacy policies so you know what they may be doing with your personal information, or if they’ve attached cookies to your computer, enabling them to track your viewing and usage patterns.

8. Start the process of routinely reviewing your credit report. Under a new Federal law, you have the right to receive a free copy of your credit report once every 12 months from each of the three nationwide credit reporting companies.

9. If you’re using peer-to-peer file sharing programs, be sure to configure the files securely so personal information is not accessible to others.

10. Be wary of telemarketing scams. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Never give your personal information to a caller.

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