Student Identity Theft
Learn important steps to prevent identity theft
As a college student, you're likely just starting to develop your credit history. And while this can be an exciting time, you also have to be more careful with your personal information to ensure it's safe and not accessible to strangers. Credit card statements, financial aid documents and registration data, to mention a few, all contain personal information that could aid a thief in stealing your identity and making fraudulent purchases.
Identity theft precautions for college students
To help you avoid identity theft, below are some identity theft precautions to keep in mind when receiving and disposing of personal information.
- Guard your info.
Although it sounds obvious, never share your personal identification numbers or passwords with anyone. You never know who could be listening, or is interested in stealing your identity. This includes friends, classmates and roommates—while letting them use your credit card or bank account may not seem like a big deal, either could lead to serious issues further down the line.
- Pay Attention.
Each month, be sure to thoroughly check your credit card, bank and phone statements for any unauthorized use. Small unauthorized purchases can be easily overlooked, but can add up in a big way.
- Shred, Don't Trash.
Be sure to shred all materials that contain your personal or student information and don't dispose of them in a common area. "Dumpster Diving" is a very common method for criminals to steal information. By shredding your personal documents, it greatly reduces the chance of a thief putting them back together and accessing your personal data, for example, your social security number.
- Buyers Beware.
When entering personal information online, be sure the site provides transaction security protection and has strong privacy and security policies. Always look for a "Lock" symbol, or paragraph explaining the site's policies, and thoroughly read them before making your purchase or payment.
- Credit Check.
Start checking your credit report to make sure it's accurate. Everyone is eligible for one free report per year. Visit www.annualcreditreport.com for more information.
There are three credit bureaus (Experian, TransUnion and Equifax) that keep track of your credit information and if you stagger your requests, you can ultimately check your credit for free three times throughout the year (instead of getting all three at once). This allows you to monitor your credit more closely to help avoid identity theft. If you do notice incorrect or fraudulent information contact the credit bureau immediately.
Establish your credit and keep it safe
It's important to start your credit history early in life, so that when it comes time to buy a car or home on your own or take out a private student loan, your credit rating is in good shape to get approval and receive a competitive interest rate. Find out how to establish your credit and maintain a good credit history throughout college. By starting to use credit and keeping it safe, you'll be set up for future borrowing and purchasing success.