Back to school is in full swing and college-age adults have many responsibilities to manage when it comes to school, work and their social lives, so they tend to not be as careful with their personal information. Better Business Bureau®(BBB) warns college-age adults of their vulnerability to identity theft.
"When it comes to identity theft, we are all at risk,” said Vee Daniel, president/CEO of the Better Business Bureau of the Upstate. “We tend to forget that college age students are the most vulnerable to fraud because they are living on their own for the first time and not exposed to the kind of information and awareness about identity theft scams in order to protect themselves.”
According to the Consumer Sentinel Network database, 57,491 consumers between the ages of 20 and 29 fell victim to identity theft in 2012. That number accounts for 21 percent of the total number of identity theft complaints reported last year- the largest out of any 10-year age range.
Identity thieves look to college-age adults because they often have good, clean credit scores, making them an ideal target.
“Buying your college-age child a shredder for their dorm is probably one of the best gifts you can give them,” said Daniel.
BBB offers these simple steps college students can take to protect their identity:
Secure your mail. Campus mailboxes are often easily accessed in a dorm or apartment. Have sensitive mail sent to a permanent address such as your parents’ home or invest in a secure post office box. This will also lessen the complications of multiple addresses.
Store safely. This includes your social security card, passport and bank and credit card statements. Shred all paper documents that contain sensitive financial information and any credit card offers that come in the mail.
Pull your credit report at least once a year. Go to annualcreditreport.com, the only authorized source for free annual credit reports under federal law.
Safeguard your information. Don’t share your information with anyone without knowing why it’s needed. Most schools now use a student identification number instead of a social security number for added protection.
Check your statements frequently. Look for any suspicious activity or purchases on your debit or credit cards. The sooner you identify potential fraud, the sooner any fraudulent charges can be refunded.
Check your credit report at least once a year. You are entitled to a free credit report once a year. Request a report and look for any suspicious activity or inaccuracies.
Consider identity theft protection services. If you are unable to routinely monitor your accounts and information, consider enrolling in identity theft protection services. These services help monitor your credit and public records for suspicious activity and will alert you if and when something is found. Some of these services also offer additional recovery and resolution help should you fall victim to identity theft.