Protecting Your Identity at College

Identity Theft Awareness for College Students

Congratulations! You are heading to college. New friends, new classes, new life. Your packing list is long, and your boxes are heavy—a dorm-sized fridge, Twin XL sheets and a brand-new desk lamp. While you are preparing for your new life, it’s also important to consider how you will protect your identity during your college years. Of all of identity theft complaints the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) received last year, 13% came from people aged 20-29.

Here are three things you should do to keep your identity safe at college:

1.     Keep your personal documents secure.

Dorms and college apartments are often full of people coming and going—your roommates, their friends, and even your roommate’s friends’ friends. And that’s just on a typical Tuesday night, not even considering a weekend party or a finals study group. Since you can’t always control who is in your space, get rid of any documents with your Social Security number (SSN) and account numbers by shredding them thoroughly. If you have certain documents you can’t part with, be sure to store them in a secure location, like a safe.

3.     Password protect your computer and mobile devices.
You likely buy items online and probably even take care of your banking over the internet. This means anyone who uses your computer or mobile devices could have access to lots of information about you. Because it’s not unheard of for someone to grab the nearest phone or tablet to look up the number to the local pizza place, make sure you are the only one who can access your devices. In addition to using strong passwords for all accounts, make sure all your mobile devices and computers are password protected as well.

3.     Watch what you share on social media.
While your parents probably told you to make sure you don’t post anything about last night’s party, in case potential employers look at your accounts, many young people may inadvertently share information online that helps thieves steal their identity—in the form of answers to security questions. Thieves can often reset your passwords with information that answers common security questions, such as who your childhood best friend was or the name of your first pet. And these are exactly the type of tidbits that are easy to share online without even thinking about it.

Yes, it takes time and effort to protect your identity. But the costs—in terms of both money and time—of having your identity stolen are far greater.