As college students prepare to head back to campus in the next few weeks, fighting fraud may not be at the top of their list of priorities. However, college students are very susceptible to identity theft; by establishing good habits for monitoring and detecting fraud, students can lay a path for healthy financial practices for the rest of their lives.
The Better Business Bureau recommends that college-bound students take the following 9 steps to fight identity theft on campus:
- Send sensitive mail to your permanent home or a post office box. School mailboxes are not always secure and often can be accessed easily in a dorm or apartment.
- Important documents should be stored away safely. This includes your U.S. Social Security card, passport, and bank and credit card statements. Shred credit card offers and any paper documents that have sensitive financial information rather than just tossing them out.
- Never lend your credit or debit card to anyone. Just say no if your friend wants to borrow your card or asks you to co-sign for a loan or financing for items like a TV. When using an ATM or credit card machine, don’t let anyone ‘shoulder surf’ your personal identification number (PIN).
- Guard your passwords and don’t give them out to anyone. Use strong passwords and don’t use the same password for all sites.
- Watch for phishing. Be vigilant and be careful of clicking on links in emails and texts; verify the content with the website. More on phishing scams.
- Make sure your computer has up-to-date antivirus and spyware software. Always install any updates and patches to your computer’s operating system or browser software, which help keep your computer safe from any new advances by identity thieves online.
- Always check your credit or debit card statements closely for any suspicious activity. The sooner you identify any potential fraud, the less you’ll suffer in the long run.
- Be careful when shopping online. Check out businesses on BBB.org. Look for the BBB Accredited Business seal; click on the seals to confirm that they are legitimate. See BBB’s tips for smart shopping online.
- 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. You can do this for free by visiting www.annualcreditreport.com.
For more advice on fighting fraud and managing personal finances, visit BBB.org/news.