Keep your identity sacred
April 21, 2012
So you’re 21 and invincible, huh? Out of mom and dad’s house, in the dorms, living the life of an adult.
When you’re in college, it feels like nothing can touch you. Sadly, that isn’t the case. As a student, you’re a target of many different problems. But one of the biggest problems doesn’t come from a bottle or a book — it comes from your back pocket.
Identity theft is a problem that not a lot of students really think of, but it’s an issue that is becoming more and more aimed at college students. In 2010, more than 250,000 people fell victim to identity theft. Of those victims, 32 percent of them were below 30 years old — the age range of most college students.
And while it’s becoming increasingly easy for a thief to steal your identity, it hasn’t gotten any easier to fix the problem. Attorney Justin Underwood deals with this type of situation on a regular basis.
“Once it happens to you, trying to convince the credit bureau that it’s not you is a monumental task,” Underwood said. “It could take years.”
College students are also more susceptible to a thing known as “friendly fraud,” a type of fraud committed by someone closely related to the victim — such as a roommate, friend or classmate.
In order to prevent identity theft, there are a few pretty simple steps you can take:
Don’t share all of your info on social networking sites. If you’ve been on a social network site for more than five years, you’re twice as likely to become a victim of identity theft. Also, make sure your privacy settings are pretty tight. If your info is open to everyone, it makes it a lot easier to steal.
Go paperless. It’s harder to steal an account number if there aren’t any documents hanging out in the trash can. Most debit accounts have the option for paperless statements. Not only will it keep your information from ending up in a trash can, it’ll keep your clutter down, too.
Shred all documents. If you opt not to go paperless, invest in a paper shredder or a nice pair of scissors. Any document you receive related to your account should take a nice trip through the shredder. It’s a lot harder to steal information from confetti.
Don’t give out your PIN number. That’s just asking for trouble. Keep it secret.
Keep the security system on your computer up to date. Private Wi-Fi networks are fairly easy to hack into. Public ones? Well, to a moderately trained hacker, it’s pretty much a cake walk. Mike Prusinski of the company LifeLock, which works to provide protection from identity theft, works with this problem every day.
“Don’t naturally assume that you’re on a secure web,” Prusinski said.
Be careful what you sign up for. There’s a chance you could be walking straight into a scam. One young woman, Kim, from Tennessee, wrote to “The Early Show” on CBS to detail her account with this problem. Kim said:
“My third day at college, I applied for several credit cards on campus. Five years later, I found out that all my personal information was posted on a Web site. I had cars bought in my name and credit accounts across the country. A college student who ran one of the credit card booths was responsible for posting my information. Even though I now have a new Social Security number, I constantly have to monitor my credit reports. I have had to explain all of this to employers who run background checks on me. Those free T-shirts wound up costing me $150,000!”
Above all else, just be aware of what you’re doing with your own information. When asked one thing he would tell college students about using their personal information, Prusinski only had one thing to say.
“We want them to make good choices. Don’t be reckless.”