BBB Advisory: Identity Theft 101

July 30, 2014

College-Aged Demographic at Highest Risk for ID Theft

Roanoke, VA  – One day you are changing their diapers, the next you are helping them change their address. College move-in is right around the corner, and while they may believe they are all “grown up”, you know better.  It’s a time for some last minute lessons on surviving on their own. Between teaching them how to do their own laundry, how to cook an actual meal, and reminding them the phone works both ways, one thing can get forgotten: protecting against identity theft.

A new tradition has joined the pantheon of college rites of passage: identity theft. According to the Federal Trade Commission’s 2013 Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book, individuals between the ages of 20 and 29 make up 20 percent of reported identity theft victims.

To make matters worse, a 2010 survey from Javelin Strategy and Research found that 18 to 24 year olds are the slowest to detect fraud, taking nearly twice as many days to detect fraud, compared to other age groups. This group was found to be the least likely to monitor accounts regularly and take advantage of monitoring programs offered by financial institutions.  With new and returning students traveling to campuses in the coming weeks, now is the time to go over important tips and steps to prevent identity theft.

“College can be the first real taste of independent living for young men and women. Because they are targeted so often by scammers, it is vital to teach them how to secure their identities before they move into the dorm.” says Julie Wheeler, President and CEO of BBB Serving Western VA.

Information sharing has become second-nature to many college students, who have grown up in an era of social media, smartphones, and widely available internet access. These students are also prime targets due to the high volume of forms and applications they are required to fill out. Add to that the barrage of credit card offers, online purchases, and newly granted financial independence, and it’s no surprise identity thieves target this age group so heavily.

Whether a student is going away to college for the first time, or is a returning student, these BBB tips can help ensure they do not become another victim of identity theft:

Lock it up. Important information should be stored in a secure place. This may be the first time the student has had their social security card, bank statements, passport, or other forms of identification in their possession. Mailboxes and dorm rooms are not always secure and can experience a lot of traffic. Have sensitive mail sent to a permanent address, such as a parent’s home or a P.O. box. Shred any sensitive financial information and credit card offers rather than throwing them away.

Keep it close. New friends can bring requests for help. Lending credit or debit cards to friends in need is not safe or secure. Never share pin numbers. Students should politely decline requests from friends needing a co-signer for loans or large purchases.

Secure it. Make sure personal computers have up-to-date antivirus and spyware software.Always install any updates to the computer’s operating system or browser software, which help keep it protected from any new advances by identity thieves online. If a computer is being shared with a roommate, make sure separate logins are used and passwords are not shared.

Check it. Always check credit card statements closely for any suspicious activity. Also, check credit reports 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. You can do this for free by visiting

Look it up. Check out unfamiliar Web sites with BBB at Look for the BBB Accredited Business Seal and click on it to check out a company’s Business Review.


If you need more information, contact the BBB at (540) 342-3455 or (800) 533-5501. You can also visit  Follow us on Twitter at and on Facebook at