How Students Can Avoid Identity Theft

The school year is underway for college students across the country, and I am sure protecting identity theftthemselves against identity theft is not top-of-mind for the majority of them. Hitting the books, finding extra-curricular activities to enjoy and making friends consume most college students. But students are very susceptible to identity theft and the Better Business Bureau has issues a few tips to protect themselves on campus.

Martha Coakley's office just released a report that says the personal information of about 2 million Massachusetts residents, or about 1 out of every 3 people who live in Massachusetts, has been compromised through electronic data breaches in the past 20-months! That's a scary statistic. And according to a research conducted by the BBB, the average cost of identity theft is $631 and the average length of time spent resolving the issue is 33-hours.

"Friendly fraud" is a term the BBB uses to describe the fact that 14% of all identity theft cases are actually caused by roommates or friends of the victim. And college campuses are ripe for those looking to steal personal information by sifting through paperwork, trash, mailboxes or even social networking sites.

The BBB recommends the following 7 steps for students to protect themselves against identity theft:

  • Send sensitive mail to your parents’ home or a post office box. School mailboxes are not always secure.
  • Keep documents such as your Social Security card, passport and bank and credit card statements in a lock box and hide the key somewhere where only you know it is. Shred paperwork that contains personal information rather than just throwing it away.
  • Do not your credit or debit card to anyone.
  • Make sure your computer has up-to-date antivirus and spyware software and always check for updates and patches to remain up-to-date.
  • Carefully read through your credit or debit card statements for any suspicious activity.
  • Before doing business on an e-commerce site that you are not familiar with, check them out with the BBB. Look for the BBB Accredited Business seal along with other trust seals; click on the seals to confirm that they are legitimate.
  • Check your credit report at least once a year. You are entitled to one free report a year from each of the three reporting bureaus: TransUnion, Experian and Equifax. Look for any suspicious activity or inaccuracies.