As college students prepare to head back to campus in the next few weeks, fighting fraud may not be at the top of their list of priorities. However, college students are very susceptible to identity theft; by establishing good habits for monitoring and detecting fraud, students can lay a path for healthy financial practices for the rest of their lives.
“First year college students are exposed to all kinds of new possibilities,” Melchele Agbayani Mills, President and CEO of BBB Serving Central East Texas said. “Unfortunately, this also makes them vulnerable to scam artists who make attempts to take advantage of their lack of life experiences”
The Better Business Bureau recommends that college-bound students take the following 9 steps to fight identity theft on campus:
Send sensitive mail to your permanent home or a post office box. School mailboxes are not always secure and often can be accessed easily in a dorm or apartment.
Important documents should be stored away safely. This includes your U.S. Social Security card, passport, and bank and credit card statements. Shred credit card offers and any paper documents that have sensitive financial information rather than just tossing them out.
Protect your credit. Never let anyone borrow your card or co-sign for a loan. When using an ATM or credit card machine, don’t let anyone ‘shoulder surf’ your personal identification number (PIN). Check your credit and debit card statements closely each week for any suspicious activity. The sooner you identify any potential fraud, the less you’ll suffer in the long run.
Guard your passwords and don’t give them out to anyone. Use strong passwords and don’t use the same password for all sites.
Watch for phishing. Be vigilant and be careful of clicking on links in emails and texts; verify the content with the website. More on phishing scams.
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.
Always 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.
Be careful when shopping online. Check out businesses on BBB.org. Look for the BBB Accredited Business seal; click on the seals to confirm that they are legitimate. See BBB’s tips for smart shopping online.
Check your credit report 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. Look for any suspicious activity or inaccuracies. You can do this for free by visiting annualcreditreport.com.
For more tips on how to be a savvy consumer, go to bbb.org. To report fraudulent activity or unscrupulous business practices, please call BBB at 903-581-5704 or use BBB ScamTracker. Read about BBB Accreditation Standards and BBB Standards for Trust.
BBB is a nonprofit, business-supported organization that sets and upholds high standards for fair and honest business behavior. Most BBB services to consumers are free of charge. BBB provides objective advice, free BBB Business Profiles on more than 5.3 million companies, 11,000 charity reviews, dispute resolution services, alerts and educational information on topics affecting marketplace trust. Visit bbb.org for more information. There are over 100 local, independent BBBs across the United States, Canada and Mexico, including BBB Serving Central East Texas, which was founded in 1985 and serves 19 counties.