College students and their parents have focused on moving in and getting settled down. Nothing else to do, right? Wrong! Identity theft never takes time off, and both students and their parents need to be aware of why they are targets and what can be done to prevent them from becoming a victim. The Better Business Bureau (BBB) has financial advice for college students and their parents that can help them avoid identity theft on campus.
Why should college students be concerned? Identity thieves prey on unsuspecting and uninformed people of all ages. They don’t care that college students may have little or no money in their bank accounts. What they want to exploit is a student’s clean credit record. How many college students have credit cards of their own?
The good news is college students are waiting longer to get those cards and are carrying fewer cards these days. The Credit CARD Act of 2009 banned credit card approvals for anyone under 21 years old unless they have an adult co-signer or can prove they have sufficient income to pay the bills. The Act also prevents credit card companies from mailing offers to consumers under 21 unless they “opt in,” and prohibits companies from wooing students with T-shirts, free pizza and other free gifts at university-sponsored events.
According to a survey conducted by Sallie Mae, in 2013:
- The older the student, the more likely they were to have a credit card.
- 30% of college undergraduates had a credit card, down from 42% in 2010
- 47% of college seniors had a credit card, down from 60% in 2012.
- Are the “bad guys” always those anonymous online hackers? No, “friendly fraud” is also a threat. New roommates and friends have just as much potential of being as dastardly as a foreign-based scam artist phishing on the Internet. They may rifle through unattended trash cans for un-shredded paperwork, steal mail from unlocked mailboxes or off a desk, or use those social networking sites to look for some personal tidbit that can unlock a wealth of information elsewhere.
What Tips Does BBB Have For Students To Avoid Financial Fraud at College?
- School mailboxes are not always secure. Have sensitive mail sent to a permanent address, such as a parent’s home or a P.O. Box.
- Important documents should be stored under lock and key. Think: your Social Security card, passport, and bank and credit card statements.
- Invest in a small shredder and shred any paper documents that have sensitive financial information rather than just tossing them out. Also shred any credit card offers that come in the mail.
- Never lend your credit or debit card OR NUMBER to anyone, even if they are a friend.
- Just say no if your friend wants you to cosign for a loan or financing for items like a TV.
- Make sure your computer has up-to-date antivirus, spyware software and operating system updates. And don’t share your passwords with others.
- Check your credit or debit card statements regularly for any suspicious activity. The sooner you identify any potential fraud, the less you’ll suffer in the long run.
- Never respond to unsolicited texts or emails with PIN numbers or other financial account information.
- When shopping on unfamiliar websites, always check the company out first with BBB at bbb.org. Look for the BBB Accredited Business seal along with other trust seals; click on the seals to confirm that they are legitimate.
Check your credit report at least once a year with all three reporting bureaus for any suspicious activity or inaccuracies. You can do this for free by visiting www.annualcreditreport.com.
A final note – many employers today can ask a potential employee if they may check their credit report. It’s in your best interest to keep a good credit rating. After all, you’ve spent all that time and money going to college. You wouldn’t want to let your credit score stop you from getting the job you desire.
For companies you can trust please visit bbb.org/atlanta.