|17 ways to avoid ID theft on campus
10. Get your credit report regularly.
If anyone has gotten credit in your name, it will likely show up
on one of your three credit reports. Federal law gives you access
to at least one
copy of each of the three every year. (Your state law may allow
If you stagger the reports (get one every four months),
that's a good way to check it regularly for no cost. Or talk your
parents into paying for a monitoring service through one of the
credit bureaus (about $80 a year, says Ulzheimer), that will alert
you any time someone applies for credit in your name.
11. When you're out, keep your purse or wallet with you.
Whether it's the library or a frat party, just a minute is all thieves
need. If you leave the room with your laptop, always keep it in
sight. "It's a pain, but you really have to get into the
habit of carrying your valuable personal possessions with you,"
12. Safeguard your computer.
If you have your own computer, use password protection for your
files and e-mail, says Givens. That way if you share, or if the
machine gets stolen, you'll have some protection. Select a password
that's not obvious. What you don't want to use: your name, birthday,
etc. Instead, try a combination of letters and numbers like the
first initials of a favorite movie or book with a couple of numbers
included; that way, you'll remember it, but no one else will be
able to guess.
13. Be cautious
with public computers.
If you're using a public computer, such as one in a lab or dorm
common, clear the history and the cookies when you're done. If you
use Internet Explorer, you can do this by going to "tools"
and then "Internet options" in your browser's menu bar
and selecting "delete cookies."
"That way no one knows where you were, and it's
none of their business," says Ulzheimer.
Make sure the browser isn't set up to remember your
information, he says. One way to test it: Go to a free e-mail site
and log into your account. Then go to another site and back to the
mail site. If it automatically logs you in, it's saving your information.
14. Be smart
about sharing your personal information on the Internet.
Select carefully those Internet sites where you actually register, says Givens. Consider using e-mail addresses and pseudonyms that don't include any parts of your real name.
15. Look for security when you buy online.
A secure server using encryption technology will have "https"
in the prefix, says Ulzheimer. That's a lot safer than "giving
your credit card to a waiter in a restaurant who disappears for
10 minutes," he says.
16. Beware of phishing scams.
Phishing, where crooks lure consumers to look-alike sites to glean
personal financial data, is on the rise. "Phishing can be very
seductive; it can draw you in," says Givens. So don't click
on links that come to you in e-mail. Instead, go to the site yourself
through your favorites or find it through a search engine.
When you use a debit card in a store or at an ATM, use your hand
to shield your personal identification number from prying eyes (and
cell phone cameras.) "Make a habit of it," Givens says.
"Don't worry about giving off the message that you don't trust.
You're giving off the message you're a careful person."
Dana Dratch is a freelance writer based in Atlanta.