College Students: Nine Steps to Protect Yourself from Identity Theft


Female student listening to co-student, at library

As you prepare to head back to campus in the next few weeks, fighting fraud may not be at the top of your list of priorities.

However, students are very susceptible to identity theft with different credit offers personal information requested from them for class registration and various applications.

By establishing good habits for monitoring and detecting fraud now, you can pave the way for healthy financial practices for the rest of their lives.

Here are nine steps to help you fight identity theft on campus:

  1. Send sensitive mail to your permanent home or a post office box. School mailboxes are not always secure and often can be accessed easily in a dorm or apartment.
  2. Important documents should be stored away safely. This includes your U.S. Social Security card, passport, and bank and credit card statements. Shred credit card offers and any paper documents that have sensitive financial information rather than just tossing them out.
  3. Never lend your credit or debit card to anyone. Just say no if your friend wants to borrow your card or asks you to co-sign for a loan or financing for items like a TV. When using an ATM or credit card machine, don’t let anyone ‘shoulder surf’ your personal identification number (PIN).
  4. Guard your passwords and don’t give them out to anyone. Use strong passwords and don’t use the same password for all sites.
  5. Watch for phishing. Be vigilant and be careful of clicking on links in emails and texts; verify the content with the website. More on phishing scams.
  6. Make sure your computer has up-to-date antivirus and spyware software. Always install any updates and patches to your computer’s operating system or browser software, which help keep your computer safe from any new advances by identity thieves online.
  7. Always check your credit or debit card statements closely for any suspicious activity. The sooner you identify any potential fraud, the less you’ll suffer in the long run.
  8. Be careful when shopping online. Check out businesses on Look for the BBB Accredited Business seal; click on the seals to confirm that they are legitimate. See BBB’s tips for smart shopping online.
  9. Check your credit report at least once a year. You are entitled to one free report a year from each of the three reporting bureaus: TransUnion, Experian and Equifax. Look for any suspicious activity or inaccuracies. You can do this for free by visiting


If you believe you have been a victim of identity theft, it is very important to act quickly. For more information on how to stop and recover from identity theft, visit

If you would like to report a scam, call your BBB at 256-533-1640 or go online to the BBB Scam Tracker.

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