9 Back to School Identity Protection Steps
As a recent victim of identity theft told us: “All it took was one use of an unsecured WiFi network combined with repeated use of similar passwords to open the door for thieves to gain access to my social security number, email addresses, banking and credit card accounts. Unwinding the damage has been un-nerving, time-consuming and fraught with additional phishing attempts to fend off.”
As students head back to campus, fighting fraud may not be at the top of their list of priorities. However, college students are very susceptible to identity theft. Don’t let this happen to your family. Review and share these 9 protection steps with your back to school online and college-bound students.
- Send sensitive mail to your permanent home or a post office box. School mailboxes are not always secure and often can be accessed easily in a dorm or apartment.
- Important documents should be stored away safely. This includes your U.S. Social Security card, passport, and bank and credit card statements. Shred credit card offers and any paper documents that have sensitive financial information before discarding.
- Never lend your credit or debit card to anyone. Just say no if your friend wants to borrow your card or asks you to co-sign for a loan or financing for items like a TV. When using an ATM or credit card machine, don’t let anyone ‘shoulder surf’ your personal identification number (PIN).
- Guard your passwords and don’t give them out to anyone. Use strong passwords and don’t use the same password for all sites.
- Watch for phishing. Be vigilant and be careful of clicking on links in emails and texts; verify the content with the website.
- Make sure your computer has up-to-date antivirus and spyware software. Always install any updates and patches to your computer’s operating system or browser software, which keep your computer safe from new advances by identity thieves.
- Always 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.
- Be careful when shopping online. Check out businesses on BBB.org. Look for the BBB Accredited Business seal; click on the seals to confirm that they are legitimate.
- Check your credit report at least once a year. You are entitled to one free report a year from each of the three reporting bureaus: TransUnion, Experian and Equifax. Look for any suspicious activity or inaccuracies. You can do this for free by visiting www.annualcreditreport.com.