College students are among the most vulnerable to identity theft. A younger demographic with less personal oversight exhibits a better target for identity thieves. All too often students haven’t grasped the concepts of money management; parents pay the credit card invoice. Distractions prevent simple but ignored practices that can avoid thousands in losses and months of stress. In this article, we’ll review ten quick steps a college student can take to safeguard themselves.
1. Be Mindful of Wi-Fi Networks
College students are mobile, and online class work is no exception. Using various location to complete work requires access to a variety of Wi-Fi locations. The security used to protect these networks also varies. Not all Wi-Fi connections were created equal. Anyone can initiate a Wi-Fi “hot-spot.” To the rushed student trying to connect security features aren’t important. Even secure Wi-Fi spots can become dangerous. A predator can interrupt communication between the benevolent Wi-Fi access point and the student thereby breaching the privacy of the user. Any passwords entered or credit card information logged will be viewable to this person. Check security first.
2. Only Use Your Computer
College is a sharing culture. Don’t let your computer be part of it. You shouldn’t lend your computer to anyone or use anyone’s computer. Some computers may enable keystroke logging software thereby enabling a record of secure information entered. Furthermore, if you lend your computer, the borrower may be able to dig through files or cached history to reveal sensitive account information.
3. Avoid Credit Card Offers
Credit card companies regularly target college campuses. They know that students are in debt and need a way to spend while deferring the costs. Credit cards are believed to be the perfect solution. Many offers are not legitimate. Avoid marketers in public spaces using clipboards to offer applications on the spot. These forms require your Social Security number and the marketing teams employing those on the campus rarely follow any security protocol to keep this information secure. Use a trusted online venue to complete the necessary paperwork If you need a credit card.
4. Have a Backup Plan
If you do become the victim of identity theft, you’re best plan is one that’s built for speed. Organization means having easy to access backup information. The purpose is simple: you’ll need copies of credit card numbers and everything else in your wallet (e.g. driver’s license number) so that when you contact the credit card companies and appropriate agencies you have the account information at your fingertips. This info also expedites the process of canceling all the stolen credit cards and debit cards. Remember, identity theft is not purely a digital crime. Many can just as easily gain access to your privacy through visible means. Maintain a safe backup record of everything.
5. Initiate Self-Imposed Credit Limits
This concept has the two-fold benefit of protecting you from thieves as well as yourself. A self-imposed limit will keep your spending from ascending out of control. Any card will come with a limit. However, credit cards often intentionally make this limit exceedingly high to encourage more spending and more fees. Cap yourself. This ceiling will also limit the maximum risk when if your information falls into the wrong hands. In many cases, substantial damage is unnoticed before the victim of identity theft becomes aware. This preemptive, proactive approach limits harm.
6. Keep Up on All Credit Card Data
Check your account and check it regularly. You may be the best person to act as the first line of defense. If you keep an eye on the regular activity on your credit card, you can expect to be the first to notice if anything goes wrong. A skilled identity thief will make small, incremental transactions when starting their ploy. Therefore, they go unnoticed. They don’t breach a limit or make any uncharacteristic purchases. In time they slowly increase their spending until the slow drip reaches a gush and it’s too late for you to stop it. Become an advocate for yourself.
7. Engage in Alternate Payment Methods
Many online payment methods offer additional layers of security. Consider using PayPal for more purchases. Although the payments are linked to a debit card, you’ll benefit from the added security features of PayPal which are as robust, or more, than a traditional credit card only option. Additionally, a debit card will likely alert you earlier to theft as more stringent limits apply.
8. Keep All Your Mail Private
Credit card invoices sent via traditional mail contain enormous amounts of private account information. If someone can see your open mail or intercept some documents they may well be able to contact the company and act as though they’re you. They can change passwords, PINs, or even have a new line of credit established in your name without you knowing until it’s too late.
9. Use Credit Sparingly
Credit can empower personal finances but only when it’s used appropriately. Overuse not only makes the account holder liable to their spending, but it allows a great number of instances for theft. Stick to a budget and use cash whenever possible. The tangibility of money will act as a clear reminder that money is leaving your pocket. When transactions land on a card, the impact is less palpable.
10. Avoid All Online Offers
Online scams are the most prevalent and increasingly predatory method of victimizing consumers. Stay away from all offers and click bait advertisements. If you are interested in any of the perks or promises in these ads, go directly to the source. This research enables you to research for yourself if the offer is legitimate. In many cases, the fraudulent ad can resemble all the hallmarks of a secure interface. Even if the offer is legitimate, it may be coming from a company that lends few resources to their internal controls and measures that operate to keep the consumer protected.