11 Ways to Prevent Identity Theft as a College Student

These days, it’s not enough to send your kid off to college with a laptop, smartphone, extra-long twin sheets and a shower caddy.  To safeguard your student’s belongings and personal identifying information, it’s just as important to pack a small crosscut shredder and a lockable box that can hold several electronic devices.

The nonprofit Identity Theft Resource Center offers these security tips for college students (any anyone else, too):

  • Keep your Social Security card and number in a locked, safe place. Do not carry it with you.
  • Don’t share your Social Security number with anyone without knowing why they need it.
  • Don’t share your bank account or credit account numbers or other private information, including your date and place of birth.
  • Store your laptop in a locked security box when you do not have it with you.
  • Be wary of peer-to-peer file sharing programs. While they provide the handy ability to exchange files, they also open up your computer to possible unauthorized access.
  • Use your home address as a permanent mailing address rather than your school address, especially for any financial correspondence. Having multiple addresses gets complicated, particularly if you change housing every year. Also, dorm and student apartment mailboxes can be easy for unauthorized people to access.
  • Never supply a phone in your name to a friend or roommate, or anyone else. If someone can’t get a phone on their own, it could be because they have bad credit, and your chances of being paid back are slim.
  • Never co-sign for anyone else’s phone, utility account, car loan or credit card. That will put you at major, unwarranted risk. If they have bad credit, it will become your bad credit.
  • Never lend anyone your driver’s license or identification card. If someone uses it and is stopped by the police, you will be listed as the offender.
  • Obtain and use a credit card, not a debit card. Credit cards can be pre-paid or have a low limit. Debit cards are targets for identity thieves. Check your monthly statements as they come in to look for unexplained expenses.
  • Once you have established credit, check your credit reports annually at annualcreditreport.com. The reports are free. If you have never established credit, you will be told there is no report. If there is a report, check it out and make sure that none of the information is a result of fraudulent activity.

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