College life is a period where you become the most autonomous you’ve been in your life so far. However, you might not have any idea about identity or credit protection – that means physical, digital, and everything in between.
You may have heard the terms identity fraud and identity theft, where someone wrongfully acquires and utilizes someone else’s personal information in a misleading way – and most of the time, they do it for financial gain.
According to the Federal Trade Commission, “People between the ages of 20 to 29 made up 20% of all reported identity fraud casualties a year ago”. That is the most exploited age group, closely followed by ages 30 to 39. According to the statistics of the Bureau of Justice, “More than 16 million individuals, or even 7% of the country’s populace age 16 and more, report having their identities stolen each year.”
So obviously, this is bad. Here’s how to make sure you’re not one of the victims:
1. Never Use Public Wi-Fi
College grounds are overflowing with public Wi-Fi. And if you’re cost-cognizant, you’ll do your best to always use free Wi-Fi. However, doing anything remotely over open Wi-Fi makes your information simple pickings for identity thieves. So while you’re encouraged to use public Wi-Fi, never check your bank balance or sign into your credit accounts while on an open Wi-Fi network.
Be careful about public computers. While they are fantastically valuable assets and frequently free for college students, they may create problems. They are a center for individuals signing onto public PCs that many others will use that day alone. Limit your use on public PCs to college managed destinations and schoolwork. Don’t use them for anything to do with billing, and don’t forget to log out!
2. Never Leave a Paper Trail
Do not leave any receipts. When you close your tab, bring your receipt with you. For example, when you get pizza and mozzarella sticks at 3am, do not advise the person behind the counter to toss out your receipt. At the ATM machine, either bring the receipt with you or choose not to have your receipt printed.
You may simply toss out an arbitrary receipt you find on the ground. However, people hoping to exploit others will absorb any data they can find. Taking a receipt from a pizza shop with your name and last four MasterCard digits is just the tip of the iceberg. Do not make it simple for thieves.
3. Lock Your Laptop or Mobile with a Password
No one ought to ever have the capacity to get to your laptop or mobile without a password. There is an undeniable accommodation to opening up your laptop and seeing the home screen momentarily. However, it is worth setting up your password and taking 8 to 12 keystrokes to concede access for yourself. This is an access that nobody else can infiltrate without learning your secret password.
4. Leave Important Documents with Parents
Important documents like birth certificates and social security cards shouldn’t stay with you. If you need to have them close by, store them in a security store box, or if nothing else, a lockable box. It’s a good idea to only carry with you ID that you really need, like your student card, passport or driver’s license.
5. Never Click any Unknown Links
Spam emails have been around since practically the beginning of the internet. But in case you need a reminder, if you get an email saying you have won something, or an email with an ambiguous portrayal alongside an enticing link, never click that link. You can also receive an instant message or text from somebody you do not know with a link appended. Do not click it. A click can help the identity thieves get all your important information.
6. Download Anti-Virus
This is undoubtedly a helpful tip. Everybody has personal data on their laptops. It can be information from your social media accounts, your username, email address or more. It would be a disgrace to get an infection that either does not permit you to get to your own accounts or one that totally wipes out your hard drive. What’s more, the computer virus could be planted by somebody searching for your personal information.
7. Never Bother with Credit Card Offers
Those online shops offering a free shirt or Game CDs if you fill out a MasterCard application are also regular sights on college grounds. Do not give your credit card information to anybody, even to apparently legitimate people. On the off chance that you have to fill out a credit application, do it using a protected connection. They will try different ways to attract you, but there are 100 ways to prevent identity theft – so you can beat them.
8. Never Loan Your Credit Card
Working on a tight budget is common for a college student between managing costs for food, books, and extracurricular activities. With a restricted income, you will sooner or later find yourself short on money. It is not uncommon for one individual amongst a gathering to pay for something, like a round of drinks, and the others pay them back. When it is your turn to pay the bill, make sure you don’t give your credit card to anyone but the waitress.
9. Avoid Doubtful Business Opportunities
College students are a main target for many organizations. While open doors can be great opportunities, some of these are simply tricks. Phishing tricks and fraudulent business models are spreading like wildfire over college grounds.
10. Clean Your Desktop and Inbox Routinely
It is crucial to clear space on your PC. Notwithstanding leaving space for future reports and messages, you are not helping yourself by sitting on messages from years back. If you keep up an organized inbox, there will be fewer data archived for another person to see if they get onto your PC.
11. Shred Sensitive Material
Sensitive documents, for example, bank proclamations, bills, and MasterCard offers ought to be destroyed, not just tossed in the trash. Putting resources into a $20 paper shredder is a much less expensive and easier alternative over the long run.
In conclusion, numerous victims do not even realize their identity has been compromised until it’s too late. In a brief timeframe, you could be a huge number of dollars under water. Identity theft is a genuine risk. Adopting healthy practices at an opportune time is the ideal approach to protecting yourself.
This article was contributed by guest author Irene Fatyanova.