Six Tips to Protect College Students from Identity Theft

By: Danielz.kane
Every fall, as millions of students get ready to head off to college identity thieves lie in wait for them. Already significant targets, college students comprised more than a third of all identity theft victims last year. Identity thieves frequently target college students because they seldom take protective steps, because of the large number of individuals with access to their personal information, and because an increasingly aggressive credit card industry bombards them with free offers and easy-to-obtain credit cards.

Todd Davis, the CEO of LifeLock, the nation's first identity theft prevention service for consumers, offered us these tips for parents and college-bound students to help protect them from becoming victims of identity thieves.

1. Before going off to campus, students should purchase a shredder and use it to destroy anything they may throw away that contains personal information about tem; report cards, financial aid forms, housing information, class schedules, etc. A good rule for students: if you aren't going to keep it in a secure file, shred it!

2. College students generally share housing and live in close proximity to lots of other students. As a result, many people are in and out of their living areas, including people they may not know well. Therefore, to protect against identity theft, students should not leave identifying documents where they can be easily found, and should password protect important information on their computers.

3. Parents...college students won't order or check credit reports. So, do it for them. Before the first semester starts, parents should have their students order free credit reports to be sent to their homes. Parents can then check the reports for accuracy and identify any potential problems. Major credit bureaus are required by law to give consumers one free credit report a year. If you discover a problem on a credit report, investigate further. Be aware that checking your credit report won't prevent thieves from opening new accounts in your name, but it is a good start.

4. Even with increased awareness and security, colleges, lenders, school systems, and other institutions lose a significant number of student Social Security numbers and other pieces of information to potential thieves each and every year. That's why it's important to take steps to protect yourself if your identification is lost to thieves.

5. Opt out of all junk mail, as soon as possible. Identity thieves can steal credit card offers from your mailbox or garbage (if you fail to shred), fill in the applications with your name and their address, and charge thousands of dollars of goods and services to you. It happens every day.

6. Place fraud alerts...they're free...on your personal information. Just contact the 3 major credit bureaus and renew every three months to assure that credit agencies will contact you before opening a new account in your name or changing information...like an address... in a current account. Or, you can hire a credit protection agency, some of which offer monetary guarantees against identity theft, to request and maintain fraud alerts for you.

Identity thieves are persistent. They are constantly attempting to acquire the confidential information they need to assume your identity, but if you are vigilant and if you take some simple steps to protect yourself, you are far less likely to become one of their victims.
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