College students have enough to juggle when it comes to school, work and their social lives. Fighting fraud doesn't usually make their list of priorities. College students are susceptible to identity theft, however, and the Better Business Bureau recommends that they take seven simple steps to protect themselves on campus.
According to Javelin Strategy and Research, identity theft committed against people aged 18 to 24 took the longest to detect. It was 132 days on average when compared to other age groups. The average cost of losses to this age group was $1,156. That was roughly five times more than amount lost by other age groups.
The BBB recommends that college-bound students take the following seven steps to fight identity theft on campus:
School mailboxes are not always secure and often can be accessed easily in a dorm or apartment. To combat sticky fingers in the mailroom, have sensitive mail sent to a permanent address, such as a parent's home or a post office box.
Important documents should be stored under lock and key. 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 out. Also shred any credit card offers that come in the mail.
Tom Stephens, president of the BBB of North Florida told me, "That's the most common type of ID theft for college students. People they know that steal it. It's called 'friendly fraud.' It's a roommate that steals a credit card or writes a number down or steals a checking account number."
Another step to follow, never lend your credit or debit card to anyone, even if they're a friend. Plus, just say no if your friend wants you to cosign for a loan or financing for items like a TV.
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.
When shopping on unfamiliar websites, always check the company out first with BBB online. Also look for the BBB Accredited Business seal along with other trust seals; click on the seals to confirm that they are legitimate. Stephens explained why this step is so important.
"We would recommend that obviously to see if the company really exists. Many, many companies now have our BBB online seal on there so you need to click that seal and make sure it's real because people do pirate that seal when they're not supposed to," he said.
Finally, check your credit report at least once a year with all three reporting bureaus for any suspicious activity or inaccuracies. Everyone is entitled to one free check every year with each of the three credit reporting agencies. The Better Business Bureau of Northeast Florida recommends the website AnnualCreditReport.com. It has step-by-step instructions and links to all three credit bureaus.
For more advice on fighting fraud and managing personal finances, visit northeastflorida.bbb.org or call 904-721-2288.