(ARA) – Parents send their children to college hoping they’ll learn enough in the classroom to get their degree, and enough about life to make their way in the world once they graduate. But firsthand knowledge of identity theft is one lesson parents don’t want kids to have, and they should take steps to help their college-age children avoid it.
Young adults between the ages of 18 and 29 make up the largest percentage of identity theft victims, according to Federal Trade Commission data.
“Their youth and the open, communal atmosphere of college life can make college kids more susceptible to identity theft, studies show,” says Jennifer Leuer, senior vice president of Experian Consumer Direct, which owns ProtectMyID. “Many college students have little credit history, making them a preferred target for identity thieves.”
Before you send your child off to college this fall, share these identity theft protection tips with him:
* Always keep your dorm room or apartment door locked, even when you’re home. Most identity theft still occurs in mundane, nontechnical ways, like a wallet being stolen from a drawer or a purse taken from an unlocked room.
* Be careful with documents that contain personal information. Shred bills, and keep credit card and bank account statements stored in a safe, locked location.
* Leave your Social Security card and birth certificate at home, with your parents. You’ll need your SSN constantly in college, so you should have the number memorized. Be careful about how you use it and who you give it to; they should have a legitimate need for it. Only carry with you the ID that you actually need, like your driver’s license and student ID card. Never loan those items to a friend, no matter how close you think you are.
* Be wary about who you allow in your room. Remember, anyone who enters your living space could gain access to your personal information.
* When making online purchases, only do business with websites that have the security lock symbol. The symbol indicates the website has taken measures to protect customers’ information.
* Never complete a credit card application at a table or booth on campus. Instead, go through the credit card company’s secure website or contact your bank before you go to school.
* Consider enrolling in a protection product, like ProtectMyID to do the things you can’t do for yourself, such as scanning the Internet daily for your information and alerting you to more than 50 indicators of fraud that may be a sign your identity has been compromised. In today’s digital world, a person’s credit status can change on a dime, and spotting unauthorized activity quickly can be a key to halting identity theft.
* Monitor your credit report regularly. Not only will regular monitoring help you identify possible occurrences of identity theft, it can help you better understand how the financial decisions you make affect your credit score.
With some preventative steps and prudent caution, college kids can ensure identity theft is one thing they don’t learn about the hard way.