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.
Summer is a time to enjoy sunshine, warm weather, and a break from the stress of school. Finally, you have some time to relax and enjoy life, but may come up a little short on cash. Here is a list of inexpensive or free activities to keep you busy this summer.
- Have a backyard campfire
- Volunteer at a local animal shelter or nonprofit organization
- Photograph a sunrise or sunset
- Plant a garden
- Plan a game night
- Go hiking
- Visit the beach
- Plan a picnic
- Visit the local library
- Start a book club
- Visit local parks
- Plan a movie night
- Attend a local farmer’s market
- Camp in the backyard under the stars
- Visit a thrift store
- Attend an outdoor movie
- Go biking on a trail
You have earned a break from the day-to-day grind of studying. Enjoy yourself this summer!
Think about the first 10 years after college graduation. You may want to purchase a reliable vehicle, rent an apartment, purchase a home, travel, get married, have children, etc. You have worked hard to obtain your degree and land a good-paying job in an effort to provide for your future, yet too much student debt can inhibit your ability to afford the things or adventures you want.
About three-fourths of college students (4-year) graduate with loan debt. According to the Institute for College Access & Success, the average Wisconsin graduate leaves college with $30,059 in student loan debt. Although the total borrowed amount is a personal decision, there is a general ‘rule of thumb’ as to the amount of debt a college student should acquire. Total student debt upon graduation should be less than your future annual income. For example, if your estimated starting salary is $40,000, your total student debt should be less than $40,000. Upon graduation, there is usually a 6 month grace period, but then you will have a student loan payment for the next 10+ years. This monthly debt payment will reduce the amount of money available to pay for expenses of your choosing.
Remember, education debt is good debt. Taking on student loans is an investment in your future; however, too much of a good thing can hurt you. You do not want to spend a lifetime paying off your bachelor’s degree. Do your research, and make good financial choices now to benefit your future.
Now that I’m in college, should I apply for a credit card?
A common question among students, and one that can only be answered after personal reflection and choice. On one hand, credit cards establish credit history and demonstrate responsible use of credit to future landlords and financial institutions. Good credit can lead to lower interest rates on loans and the ability to obtain a loan or rent an apartment without a cosigner. On the other hand, overspending, high interest rates, and not being able to pay off your balance each month pose risks to college-aged students that can follow them into adulthood. Only you know what you are capable of, and if you are ready to handle the financial responsibility of a credit card. For further information, visit the Financial Literacy Center or utilize our online resources.
The Financial Literacy Center is a new addition to the UW-Whitewater campus, and we are proud to offer our campus community financial education and resources. Students are encouraged to schedule an individual financial coaching session, which is free and confidential. During these sessions, students can obtain information and resources related to their own personal finance questions. Students can schedule an appointment online using the Financial Literacy Center website, email their request to FinLit@uww.edu, or call the office at 262-472-4947. We look forward to seeing you soon!