If you live on campus, it's important that you learn ways to protect your identity. As a young college student, identity theft might be the last thing on your mind. Recent statistics from the Federal Trade Commission however, show “people between the ages of 20 and 29 made up 20% of all reported identity theft victim's last year.” Therefore, no matter how old you are, someone can steal your identity and compromise your credit history. Here are seven ways to protect your identity on campus.
1. Leave Important Documents at Home
Keeping important documents secured is one of the best ways to protect your identity. If possible, don't bring your social security card or birth certificate to college. Leave them at home with your parents. If you have to bring these documents, keep them safe in a lock box in your closet or under your bed.
2. Get a PO Box
If you have bills, such as a credit card or a cell phone bill, get an off-campus mailbox at the post office. This ensures your mail arrives to a safe location. If you don't have transportation to drive to the post office, sign up for e-statements and eliminate paper statements. With e-statements, all bills are delivered to your email.
3. Buy a Shredder
After opening paper mail and paying bills, always shred documents. This includes anything with your name, address, social security number or account information. If you throw away these documents without shredding, the information can end up in the wrong hands, thus compromising your identity.
4. Avoid Public Wi-Fi
It's tempting to use public Wi-Fi as a college student, especially if you prefer studying or doing homework at a location other than your dorm. However, public Wi-Fi can be dangerous. Some hackers know how to break into a computer and retrieve sensitive information. Also, if you set up Wi-Fi in your dorm room or campus apartment, make sure you secure the network. And if you sign into a public computer and use the internet, completely log out when you’re finished.
5. Use Difficult Passwords
Managing your bank account and bills online is convenient, but it's important to use unique passwords. In other words, passwords should not be words that others can easily guess, such as your name, your pet's name, or the last four digits of your cell phone or social security number. Use a combination of numbers and letters.
6. Shop Online with Caution
If you don't have a car or a lot of extra time, it might be easier to buy items online. This is okay, just make sure you purchase from secured websites. When shopping online, carefully check the website for a lock box symbol or other security logos. If you can't find this information, do not enter your personal information or credit card numbers.
7. Monitor Your Credit Report
Once a year, pull your credit report. Go to Annual Credit Report to access a free copy of your report from each of the credit bureaus. Check your file for unfamiliar accounts, errors or signs of identity theft. The sooner you detect problems, the sooner you can remove the damaging information.
Identity theft is a real problem. In fact, it's the fastest growing crime in the nation. Once someone steals your identity, it can take several months or years to fix the damage. You need therefore to stay on top of your credit file. What are other ways to protect your identity while living on campus?