As University of Arizona students prepare to head back to campus, fighting fraud may not be at the top of their list of priorities. Students are susceptible to identity theft, however, and Better Business Bureau of Southern Arizona recommends that they take eight steps to protect themselves on campus.
“Identity thieves don’t care if you’re a struggling student and don’t have a penny to your name,” said Kim States, BBB President. “Sometimes all they want is to exploit your clean credit record. By establishing good habits for monitoring and detecting fraud, students can lay a path for healthy financial practices for the rest of their lives.”
Last year, 11.6 million American adults became victims of ID theft- and increase of 13 percent compared to 2010- with losses totaling $37 billion, according to a report from Javelin Strategy and Research.
Young adults aged 18-24 are among the last to detect identity theft when compared to other age groups. It took them 132 days on average to spot it, and their average loss was roughly five times more than the amount lost by other age groups.
BBB recommends that college-bound students take the following seven steps to fight identity theft on campus:
- Update your smartphone’s operating system, and protect your home screen with a password. Javelin Strategy found that 7 percent of smartphone owners were victims of identity fraud in 2011. Students should keep their operating systems updated to prevent hackers from accessing their devices remotely, and password-protect their home screens to prevent prying eyes in the event they lose their device.
- Send sensitive mail to your parents’ 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 under lock and key. This includes your Social Security card, passport and bank and credit card statements. Shred credit card offers and any paper documents that have sensitive financial information rather than just tossing them out.
- 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.
- 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 help keep your computer safe from any new advances by identity thieves online.
- 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.
- Check out unfamiliar websites with the BBB. Look for the BBB Accredited Business seal along with other trust seals; 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.
For more advice on fighting fraud and managing personal finances, visit www.tucson.bbb.org or call (520)888-6161.