Protect Yourself from Identity Theft and Scams in College
Identity theft and financial scams commonly target college students. Students, after all, routinely use their Social Security Numbers, passwords and other personal information on forms and applications. In fact, a survey by the Better Business Bureau found that people between 18 and 24 were more than three times as likely as senior citizens to not recognize a scam.
Here are a few tips for keeping your information safe:
Don’t Share Personal Info
When it comes to your passwords, PINs, bank and credit card account numbers, Social Security Number and other important information, like the FSA ID used to file Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), don’t share them with anyone. This is information that is key to your digital identity and it’s best to keep it a secret. Additionally, don’t leave this information in a place, such as your email or on a sticky note, where someone can easily access it.
Also, don’t share personal information over open Wi-Fi networks. People can easily access what you do on your computer or phone on open networks. Also, be sure to not leave your email or other personal information open in your dorm room or common areas. You never know who is nearby or dropping in to visit your roommate.
Also, remember to create strong, unique passwords that only you will know.
Don’t Venmo with Strangers
Although Venmo is a great way to pay your roommates for bills or receive payment for freelance projects, you shouldn’t accept or request payment from strangers. It’s easy to stop a payment before it ever reaches your bank account, so don’t count on this handy app as a one-stop source for receiving or sending cash.
Don’t Respond to Suspicious Emails
Phishing, a practice in which people receive emails from seemingly reputable companies that are actually scams asking for personal information, is a very common method of scamming college students. If you do receive an email from a college credit union or another seemingly legitimate institution, be sure to call and ask if it’s real. If it is, try and handle the business over the phone or in person. Never click on a link or open an attachment in an unsolicited email message.
Don’t Give Sensitive Information to a Significant Other
College relationships are a wonderful part of the college experience, but they don’t always work out. Although you might think you’ll be with someone for the long haul, you can’t predict the future. Do not give your significant other access to your bank accounts or finances. Also, don’t share any of your identifying information with this person.
Remember, if something seems off, you don’t have to give your personal information to anyone. Take the time to investigate emails or opportunities that seem too good to be true. You should visit AnnualCreditReport.com to check for suspicious activity.
If you are a victim of identity theft, visit IdentityTheft.gov to receive help.