|17 ways to avoid ID theft on campus
|By Dana Dratch
Think you're safe from identity theft on campus? Think again.
College students face about the same risk of having their identity stolen as the average person -- roughly one in 30.
"Just because of the way a campus environment
operates," says Lynne Strang, vice president of communications
for the American Financial Services Association, an industry association
of credit card companies and financial institutions. "You're
living in close quarters with other students, where people are coming
in and out.
"There's a lot of freedom and a lot of opportunity if you are not vigilant," she says.
Actual incidents of identity theft have decreased
slightly in the last year, but thieves are stealing more. The average
take: $6,383, according to a January report by Javelin Strategy
and Research and the Better Business Bureau. What's almost as bad
for students: It takes an average of 40 hours to straighten out
the mess, according to the study.
The stakes can be high for college students, says
John Ulzheimer, co-author of the upcoming book, "Surviving
Identity Theft." With employers now routinely checking credit
reports, an undetected identity theft during the college years can
put the brakes on launching that new career.
For most students, the threat of identity theft is
probably pretty low on the priority list. "College student
have a lot on their minds," says Strang.
They'd better think about it. "There are a lot
of things college students can do to reduce that risk," she
says. In addition, staying vigilant and catching it early can make
it a lot easier to resolve.
While nothing is fool-proof, you can reduce your chances of becoming a victim just by being aware and a little more careful. Here are some things to try:
|17 ways to short-circuit
ID theft on campus
1. Guard your
College mail stations are not exactly secure, says Ulzheimer. One person or several people have access to several thousand mailboxes, which contain things like credit cards, checks and gifts from home, he says.
A better bet: Handle bills and other finance-related
tasks online and have the reminder notices sent home.
"One of the ways ID thieves work is to steal mail," says Beth Givens, director of the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse. But if you go paperless, "you have to remember to stay on top of it," she says.
If it's an option, rent a secure box at a postal or mail facility.
2. Use a U.S.
Postal mailbox for outgoing mail.
If you're sending bills or other items containing personal information
via snail mail, find a sealed U.S. mailbox, says Susie Irvine, president
and CEO of the AFSA Education Foundation. Outgoing mail is a favorite
target for identity thieves. "Someone can walk in and grab
it, and they have a lot of information," she says.
3. Opt out of
preapproved credit card offers.
ID thieves love the offers, says Givens. Since you're not getting the bills, you won't know about it until you're denied credit later.
or call (888) 5-OPT-OUT to get your name taken off the list for
those pre-approved credit cards offers.