BBB Alert: College Students & Identity Theft

Better Business Bureau warns that college-age adults are particularly
vulnerable to identity theft and related fraudulent crimes. According to
the Consumer Sentinel Network database, 56,689 consumers between the
ages of 20 and 29 fell victim to identity theft in 2011. That number
accounts for 23 percent of the total number of identity theft complaints
reported last year; the largest out of any 10-year age range.

BBB offers these simple steps college students can take to protect their
identity:

* Secure your mail. Campus mailboxes are often easily accessed in a dorm
or apartment. Have sensitive mail sent to a permanent address such as
your parents’ home or invest in a secure post office box.

* Important documents should be securely stored and disposed of. This
includes your social security card, passport and bank and credit card
statements. Shred all paper documents that contain sensitive financial
information and any credit card offers that come in the mail.

* Never loan your credit or debit card to anyone. If you feel the need
to pay for a friend’s meal or a tank of gas, go with them instead. Avoid
co-signing for a loan or other financing.

* Check your credit and debit card statements frequently. Look for any
suspicious activity or purchases. The sooner you identify potential
fraud, the sooner any fraudulent charges can be refunded.

* Check your credit report at least once a year. Experian, Equifax and
TransUnion each offer a free credit report once a year. Visit
www.annualcreditreport.com to request a report and look for any
suspicious activity or inaccuracies.

* Consider identity theft protection services. If you are unable to
routinely monitor your accounts and information, consider enrolling in
identity theft protection services. These services help monitor your
credit and public records for suspicious activity and will alert you if
and when something is found. Some of these services also offer
additional recovery and resolution help should you fall victim to
identity theft. Make sure to check out services with the BBB before
signing up – especially since you have to trust them with your account
numbers. 

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