A study by Javelin Strategy & Research identified 16.7 million victims of identity fraud in 2017. This was a record high number of victims, making detection more important than ever before. Because of clean credit and living in close quarters, college students are no exception to being victims of identity theft. Although the precautions listed below are aimed specifically at college students, in general, they apply to all ages when helping to avoid identity theft.
Identity Fraud Precautions
- Paperwork. Bank statements, credit card offers, and any paperwork containing account information and social security numbers should be shredded or destroyed.
- Dorm Room. Foot traffic from new and old friends, both in and around your ‘home away from home’ is inevitable. Be sure to leave your important documents (social security card, birth certificate, etc) at home or in a secure, locked space. Mail should not be left out where others can rifle through or gain access.
- Electronic devices. Smartphones, tablets, and laptops should be locked or password protected when not in use. Never store personal information, account login information, and confidential data on your computer’s hard drive.
- Passwords. Avoid using obvious passwords, such as your birthday, phone number, anniversary, addresses, or names of pet. Strengthen your passwords by using an 8-12 character combination of small and capital letters, symbols, and numbers. Create different passwords for each account.
- WiFi. Never shop or check your bank or credit account information using a public hotspot or connection. These activities should occur when on a password-protected Internet connection.
- Secure Websites. Use secure websites for purchasing goods and services. Often times, the URL will start with https://. Always log out of secure sites, including online banking apps and programs. Check your website browser settings to be sure it does not save login information.
- Credit Card Offers. Credit card applications appear in student mailboxes and at various campus events. When ready to apply, use a secure website from a private, password-protected Internet connection or in-person at the financial institution.
- Social Media. Adjust your privacy settings to make it more difficult for people to view your information or post to your page. Avoid over-sharing personal information when posting to social media accounts.
- Phishing. Avoid emails attempting to ‘phish’ for information. They look legitimate, but when clicked, redirect you to another site where your personal information may be recorded.
Bottom line: be cautious with your personal and private information. For more information on protecting your identity, access the Financial Resources located on the UWW Financial Literacy Center’s website.