The back-to-school season is upon us. Many college students have moved into their dorms and started their classes already. Other than grades, internships, clubs, sports, and social lives, students have another thing to worry about: identity theft.
According to a 2015 report from Javelin Strategy and Research, college students are increasingly becoming victims of identity theft at a rate of five times more than adults.
College students are seemingly perfect victims. They often leave important documents in unlocked dorm rooms, and leave other sensitive information unsecured on their laptops, smartphones, and tablets.
Here are six simple tips to prevent identity theft as a college student:
- Secure all of your important documents somewhere secure and out of sight, not in a desk drawer. Fireproof safes are the most secure options. Passports, social security cards, checkbooks and credit card statements should never be lying out in the open. While you’re at it, lock your door behind you when you leave, no matter how trustworthy your dorm-mates seem to be.
- Old credit cards, bank statements, pay stubs, and expired licenses should never simply be thrown away — but that doesn’t mean you need to keep it all, either. Paper shredding is the best way to dispose of unneeded documents. You might think that, in 2016, an overwhelming majority of identities are stolen through online methods, but plenty of thieves are still using old-school methods. Dumpster diving is responsible for 43% of all security breaches, so paper shredding is a wise practice, in order to keep your personal information safe.
- If you have an extremely important piece of mail coming, like loan information, tuition statements, a new credit or debit card, etc., have it sent to your home address rather than your college address, if possible. College mailrooms can be chaotic, and each passing parcel runs the risk of being lost or delivered to the wrong person
- Have strong passwords that lock all of your devices, including your smartphone. Ideally, each password should be different, and should be changed routinely.
- Don’t download apps from unknown online app stores. Limit yourself to the Apple App store or the Google Play store. Some apps obtained through unsecured app providers can be infected with malware that can extract personal information.
- If you ever lose a personal document, like a credit or debit card, call your bank or service provider immediately to report it lost or stolen. They will place a freeze on the account and issue you a new card. If you recover your card after reporting it stolen, you should still shred it and wait for the replacement.
Secure document shredding is hard to ensure on a college campus. If you have documents that need to be securely destroyed, consider hiring a confidential paper shredding company like Green Office. Green Office provides containers for all of your shreddable materials that cannot be opened until time of destruction, ensuring that none of your sensitive materials can get into the wrong hands.