College students have enough to juggle when it comes to school, work and their social life. Fighting fraud often doesn’t make their list of priorities. College students are susceptible to identity theft and the Better Business Bureau (BBB) serving Eastern Massachusetts, Maine, Rhode Island and Vermont recommends seven simple steps to protect themselves on campus.
“Identity thieves are looking to exploit a student’s clean credit record,” said Paula Fleming, vice president of communications and marketing for the local BBB. “By establishing good habits for monitoring and detecting fraud, students can practice smart financial habits for the rest of their lives.”
According to Javelin Strategy and Research, identity theft committed against people aged 18 to 24 took the longest to detect – 132 days on average – when compared to other age groups. The average cost of losses to this age group – $1,156 –was roughly five times more than the amount lost by other age groups.
BBB recommends the following seven steps for college-bound students to fight identity theft on campus:
1. School mailboxes are not always secure and often can be accessed easily in a dorm or apartment. To combat sticky fingers in the mailroom, have sensitive mail sent to a permanent address, such as a parent’s home or a P.O. box.
2. Important documents should be stored under lock and key. This includes your Social Security card, passport and bank and credit card statements. Shred any paper documents that have sensitive financial information rather than just tossing them out. Also shred any credit card offers that come in the mail.
3. Never lend your credit or debit card to anyone, even if they are a friend. Just say no if your friend wants you to co-sign for a loan or financing for items like a television.
4. Make sure your computer has up-to-date anti-virus and spyware software. Always install any updates and patches to your computer’s operating system or browser software, which helps keep your computer safe from any new advances by identity thieves online.
5. 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.
6. When shopping on unfamiliar websites, always check the company out first at bbb.org. Also look for the BBB Accredited Business seal along with other trust seals; click on the seals to confirm that they are legitimate.
7. Check your credit report at least once a year with all three reporting bureaus for any suspicious activity or inaccuracies. You can do this for free by visiting annualcreditreport.com.
For more information you can trust, visit bbb.org. Check us out on Facebook at facebook.com/BBBconnection.