How College Freshmen Can Avoid Identity Theft

By Kasey Schefflin-Emrich October 18, 2013

First-year college students have a lot on their plate, from handling a huge workload to adjusting to a new environment and making new friends. Some have even had to deal with their identities being stolen, with the number of identity fraud victims under the age of 19 tripling from 2010 to 2012, according to data from the Federal Trade Commission.

Identity theft protection services provider Affinion Security Center recently offered some tips on how students can protect themselves from identity theft in their educational environment.

"Over the past few years, thieves have taken advantage of a tremendous opportunity to defraud young people in the US, using a wide variety of scams," Vin Torcasio, director of product for Affinion Security Center, said in a statement. "In many cases, following a few simple steps can help students significantly decrease the likeliness of becoming a victim."

Students are advised to be wary of using complimentary Wi-Fi, avoid sharing passwords for electronic devices, be aware of what information is on their school ID, place a password on their smartphones and be cautious when it comes to credit card offers.

Universities providing free Wi-Fi make it convenient for students to obtain access to the Internet, but that poses a high risk for students to become victims of hackers, especially when it comes to personally identifiable information or banking details. Thus, students can use the free service but shouldn't handle highly sensitive data over the unsecured connection.

For students who decide to share their desktop or laptop with a roommate or roommates, they are encouraged to set up a password-protected user profile for each user rather than sharing passwords that can make them susceptible to being an identity theft victim. Additionally, students are advised to make their smartphones password-enabled so if the device ends up in the wrong hands, that person can't gain access to its content, such address books and past purchasing history.

When it comes to school ID cards, some colleges publish a student's social security number on it. Students should know what information is on their ID and who has access to that data.

Incoming students are often presented with many new credit card offers that feature very attractive introductory rates, however students are told to consider whether or not they really need the offered card and should be aware that filling out many offers can actually damage their credit history and credit score since it causes numerous hard inquiries.

Image via Shutterstock

TechZone360 Contributing Writer

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