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17 ways to avoid ID theft on campus
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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 you more.)

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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," says Givens.

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.

17. Protect your PIN.
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.

Bankrate.com's corrections policy -- Posted: Sept. 8, 2006
 
 
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