Most colleges are back in session this week, so happy move-in to all our readers! There have been so many articles on back to school popping up around the Internet this past week (you can find some on our Pinterest page), and I keep seeing articles with tips to protect yourself from ID theft this semester, and for a good reason. Those aged 16-24 experience attempted or successful identity theft rates higher than all other age groups (source). Don’t wait until it’s too late to avoid identity theft. Check out these tips from Erie Insurance on how you can take a few simple measures to better protect yourself this semester:
1. Pack a shredder and lockbox – Nope, not overreacting. Your bank and credit card statements, as well as bills, can contain sensitive personal information that could help thieves. As for the lockbox, that’s a great place to store your laptop, tablets, and identifying documents (like your Social Security card, passport, etc.) in a safe place.
2. Keep your Social Security number protected – Never give out your Social Security number without verifying who is requesting it and what they need it for, and never carry your card on your person. If you can, try to leave documents like your Social Security card and passport at home instead of bringing them with you to school.
3. Make sure your student ID number isn’t your Social Security number – If it is, request to have it changed.
4. Be wary of school computer networks – Peer-to-peer file-sharing programs and unsecured WiFi networks can leave your computer vulnerable to hackers. Makes sure you use up-to-date computer security software and install updates often.
5. Be careful what you share on social media – Oversharing on personal location, including personal details about you (birthday, name of your high school, a pet’s name, all common account security questions) and your location. You may love and trust your roommate, but giving away your login information for different accounts is ill-advised.
6. Avoid credit card sign-up booths on campus and use that trusty shredder from #1 to shred any offers mailed to you – I know, those booths are everywhere the first week of school. Filling out all the info to get a credit card in the middle of the campus center? Not the most secure method, so skip it. Anyone could be looking over your shoulder. If you want to open a credit card, do your research and open one from a reputable company. If you find a good one, you can use your credit card instead of your debit card for extra layers of fraud protection.
7. Add a password to your smartphone – According to Erie Insurance, “Javelin’s report indicates smartphone owners experience identity theft 1/3 more than the general public.” Think of all the personal information stored in your phone and its apps. Is it password protected? By putting a password on your phone, you can help block thieves from all the information there.
8. Be aware of your surroundings – For your safety in general, take note of what is going on around you. This is true of protecting your identity as well. Being distracted can create opportunities for thieves to steal from you, whether it’s your debit card or “shoulder surfing” when you’re checking your bank account at the library. “Shoulder surfing” is when someone snaps a photo of your account over your shoulder when you’re not paying attention.
9. Check your credit score bank and credit card statements regularly – Checking your accounts monthly and your credit throughout the year will help you keep track of your spending and catch any fraudulent activity. Call your bank or credit card provider immediately if you see something suspicious.
10. Consider purchasing identity theft protection coverage – This coverage can help alert you if your identity is compromised, as well as help you resolve any issues that may arise from ID theft.