College students can be easy prey for identity thieves

Tips to avoid becoming victim


Identity thieves prey on nearly 10 million Americans each year.

According to the Federal Trade Commission, victims who are between the ages of 18 and 29 have the highest number of identity theft complaints.

College students pass around a lot of personal information in the first days of the school year, everywhere from the registrar's office to the bank.

For identity thieves, these young people are a popular target.

"They haven't established a credit history yet, so they kind of have a clean slate in the credit world," said Michael Kaiser, executive director of the National Cyber Security Alliance. "And they're not likely to check their credit history or have their credit history checked until they graduate from college."

It's not just keeping an eye on a wallet anymore. A smartphone, tablet or laptop can give a thief access to valuable information.

Mary Power of the Better Business Bureau advises keeping certain data especially secure.

"College students are very open and very trusting, and they want to trust everybody," Power said. "And we want them to, to a certain point, but we want them to be careful particularly with those three items: the bank account number, the credit card number, and the Social Security card number."

In addition to their own precautions, Kaiser advises getting a sense of the university's privacy policies and whether they could leave an opening for a security breach.

"Any new college students, I say, 'Hey, ask what are you doing with my information? How do you store information? Are you going to take that file and lock it in a cabinet when I leave here?'" Kaiser said. "I mean, those are the basic things that keep information safe."

Credit card offers are slightly less prevalent on campuses due to changes in federal law, but when filling out applications, students should always be mindful to keep their information secure.