by Hannah Murphy
Leaving home and going to college is the first step into the adult world and it also could possibly be a step toward becoming a victim of identity theft. Twelve million Americans are victims of identity theft each year, according to a study by the Javelin Strategy and Research. Among the victims, 31 percent are between the ages of 18 and 29. (CBS News) When you know the risks associated with identity theft, you can take measures to reduce your chances of becoming a victim.
Hold Back your Information
Social media and the Internet provide the opportunity to stay connected with friends and family, but it can also put you at risk of identity theft if you are not careful with the details you provide. A major reason that college students become the victim of identity theft is online sharing of information without taking safety precautions.
Sharing information online with friends and family may not seem dangerous, but it requires appropriate privacy settings and safeguards to reduce the risk of strangers accessing that data. As a general rule, it is better to avoid putting data on a social media website than to discover that information was used without permission to open credit cards, buy cars or purchase other large items.
Properly Dispose of Offers
It is likely that you will start receiving credit card offers in the mail. Improper disposal of unwanted offers can actually result in identity theft. Throwing out the offers without shredding them allows another individual to fill out the form and obtain a card in your name.
Before throwing out any documents with personal data, shred the paper or rip it up to the point that it is no longer useful.
Pay Attention to Financial Aid
When you apply for a student loan, obtain a scholarship or are awarded a grant for your education, make a note of the money that you expect to receive. According to Lifelock.com review your financial aid award documents thoroughly and keep track of the money you’ve been awarded, so that you know exactly how much you have available. Report any missing documents, IDs or other information to the school and authorities immediately will also help protect your identity.
Applying for financial aid is an appropriate way to pay for college, but it also requires you to pay attention to the documents and track all of the money that you receive. Even if the money goes toward your tuition and you don’t put it directly into your bank account, make a note that you received the funds.
Check Your Statements
Keep track of all your information and funds so that you catch problems early. A common problem college students face is a lack of scrutiny when it comes to bank statements. When your statements arrive, take the time to evaluate the data. Look for any purchases that you did not make or unauthorized uses of your account data.
Scrutinize your accounts regularly and catch the theft early, so your bank is more likely to return the funds.
Awareness is the key to reducing your risk of identity theft after you go to college. When you take measures to reduce your risk, the number of problems you are likely to face decreases drastically, so protect yourself.