College Students: Don't Learn about Identity Theft the Hard Way

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Few college students recognize how vulnerable they are to identity theft -- until it's too late, says ScamBusters.org.

There are many factors that make college students especially vulnerable. For example, most college students are just establishing a credit history -- so they're likely to have a clean credit record if they have one at all

This fall, the benefits of higher education will draw students to U.S. colleges and universities in record numbers. Unfortunately, once they arrive, many will also learn about Identity Theft -- at the School of Hard Knocks.

Dr. Audri G. Lanford, Co-Director of ScamBusters.org, a public service website that has been helping people protect themselves from Internet scams since 1994, warns college students and their families that "unfortunately, identity thieves are just as excited as you are that you're going back to school."

What makes a college student an ideal target for identity theft? "There are many factors that make college students especially vulnerable. For example, most college students are just establishing a credit history -- so they're likely to have a clean credit record if they have one at all," says Dr. Lanford. "College students are also often very casual with sensitive personal and financial information. That can be a problem if your dorm room is a popular hangout, and some of these visitors are less than honest."

Another identity theft risk factor: credit card companies market heavily to college students. Many students throw away credit card applications without shredding them. This is especially dangerous, says ScamBusters.org, because it's so easy for an identity thief to apply for credit in someone else's name -- sometimes all they need is a discarded credit card application and a "change of address" form.

In order to make college students and their parents aware of these problems, ScamBusters.org has created a new free report called "The College Student's Guide to Identity Theft: What every college student must know about identity theft."

Here are three tips from this Guide to help college students protect themselves:

1. If your college, university, or health insurance provider uses your Social Security number (SSN) as an identification number, request that you be assigned a random ID number instead. And never give out your SSN unless it is truly required.

2. Don't reveal personal information online in a user profile or on your MySpace, FaceBook, Flickr, YouTube or other social networking page. And never send personal data in an unencrypted email.

3. Never leave sensitive personal information (bank or credit card statements, your driver's license, Social Security number, etc.) where a roommate, friend, or visitor has access to it. Keep it in a locked file drawer or small safe.

College students can learn more about identity theft prevention -- and recovery -- by visiting the ScamBusters.org College Student's Guide to Identity Theft.

About ScamBusters.org
ScamBusters.org is a public service that has been helping people protect themselves from Internet fraud since 1994. Founded by Co-Directors Audri and Jim Lanford, ScamBusters.org provides a free weekly email newsletter that shows you how to protect yourself from cunning scammers -- online and offline. ScamBusters.org offers a lively, entertaining and opinionated approach to avoiding the most popular scams, viruses, spyware, phishing scams, identity theft ploys, credit card fraud schemes, and urban legends making the rounds.

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Audri G. Lanford, Ph.D.
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