By the time you finish reading this sentence, another person will have fallen victim to identity theft. Everyone is vulnerable, but according to the Financial Times, college students are five times more likely to be victimized by fraud.
This group is easy prey for identity thieves because they live in close quarters, are active on social media sites, and, like many younger adults, simply do not take the necessary precautions to protect their personal and financial information from potential fraud.
Students away at school now, as well as adults preparing for the holiday shopping season, can benefit from our five fraud prevention tips:
- Use social media wisely: Social media is a fun way to interact with friends and family online, but it also provides criminals with convenient access to a lot of your personal information. Review your privacy/security settings so that you have more control over the type of information shared publically on social media sites.
- Beware of skimmers: By installing “skimmers” over card readers on ATMs, gas pumps and other card scanning outlets, criminals are using technology to collect personal information and commit credit card fraud. If the card reader on the ATM you are using looks unusual, loose or tampered with, alert your financial institution immediately.
- Safeguard your electronic devices against unauthorized access: Personal computers, tablets and smartphones frequently contain sensitive information, including website login credentials or bank account numbers. It’s important to keep these devices secure. Avoid using common passwords such as your name, family members’ names and birthdates. Also, use only secure networks, watch who uses your electronic device(s) and make sure your computer has adequate and updated anti-virus protection.
- Review your financial statements: When dealing with fraud, it’s important to catch suspicious transactions as quickly as possible. You should establish the habit of regularly reviewing financial statements - it will pay dividends. We recommend that you monitor your credit card statements, bank statements and other financial statements periodically to ensure all charges are authorized. Report any suspicious activity to your financial institution immediately to avoid financial loss and the inconvenience that often accompanies fraud.
- Secure important documents: A blank check is an identity thief’s passport to your bank account. Take precautions to ensure your checkbook and any documents that might include your credit card or social security numbers are locked in a safe or stored securely. Shred these documents rather than discarding them in the trash to ensure “dumpster divers” do not make fool’s gold with your personal or financial information.
These are just a few steps you can take to protect yourself from identity theft. For more tips, read our Nov. 5, 2014 blog post.