College students have plenty to juggle when it comes to school, work and their social lives. Due to that level of activity, fighting fraud often doesn’t make the list of top priorities. However, college students are especially vulnerable to identity theft, and Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota (BBB) offers a list of simple steps students can take to protect themselves on campus.
According to the 2014 Identity Fraud Survey Report released by Javelin Strategy and Research, more than 13 million people became victims of identity theft in 2013. Identity theft was once again – for the 14th straight year – the top complaint reported to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Last year, 14 percent of the two million complaints they received were related to identity theft, according to their 2013 annual report. The highest reported age group for identity theft was 20-29, comprising 20 percent of those complaints.
“Identity thieves don’t care if you’re a struggling student and don’t have a penny to your name; what attracts them is a clean credit record,” said Dana Badgerow, President and CEO of BBB of Minnesota and North Dakota. “This is a problem all college students need to be thinking about.”
BBB recommends that college students take the following steps to keep their identity secure on campus:
- Have sensitive mail sent to a permanent address such as the parents’ home or a PO Box. School mailboxes are not always secure and can often be easily accessed in a dorm or apartment.
- Store important documents under lock and key, such as a filing cabinet or personal safe. This includes your Social Security card, passport and bank and credit card statements. Shred any paper documents that have sensitive financial information rather than just tossing them in the garbage. Also shred any unwanted credit card offers that come in the mail.
- Never loan your credit or debit card to anyone, even if they are a friend. Also just say no if your friend wants you to co-sign for a loan or financing for goods like a TV or new computer.
- 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.
- 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.
- When shopping on unfamiliar websites, always research the company for free at bbb.org. Also look for the BBB Accredited Business seal along with other trust seals; be sure to click on those seals to confirm they are legitimate.
- Check your credit report at least once a year with all three reporting bureaus for any suspicious activity or inaccuracies. You can do this for free by visiting www.annualcreditreport.com.
The mission of Better Business Bureau is to be the leader in building marketplace trust by promoting, through self-regulation, the highest standards of business ethics and conduct, and to instill confidence in responsible businesses through programs of education and action that inform, assist and protect the general public. We are open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Contact BBB at bbb.org or 651-699-1111, toll-free at 1-800-646-6222.
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