As you prepare for the fall semester, don’t overlook planning for one of the most important (and probably overlooked) things – keeping your identity safe. It may not be top of mind, but it should be: college students are prime targets for identity thieves. Why? Because in college, students generally have a clean credit history and aren’t as likely to regularly review credit reports (even while applying for financial aid).
Learn how to prevent identity theft before you hit your college campus. Because preventing identity theft is easier than cleaning up after your identity has been stolen, we’ve compiled some of our best tips for preventing identity theft on campus.
Don’t Let the Numbers Add Up
There are common numbers that fraudsters use to steal an identity. Don’t let this data fall into the hands of someone looking to steal your good name.
- Social Security Number – Many places (including college campuses) use unique identifiers—like a social security number or other personal information—as an identifying number on campus. Students use it to register for classes, reserve student housing and eat in the dining halls. Why is this a bad idea? Your Social Security Number gets a LOT of exposure. It is a number unique to you and should be carefully guarded. What can you do? If your college campus uses the SSN, request a student ID number (that is not tied to your social security number) from the registrar.
- Birthdate -- Did you know that with your name, address, and birthdate in hand, some scammers may be able to buy your Social Security number on websites? In fact, with your birthdate and hometown, thieves can often guess all your digits. Think twice about listing your birthdate on social media and other websites.
- ZIP Code -- Often after making a purchase with a credit card at the cash register, you’re asked to provide your ZIP code. Beware – your ZIP code may find its way to scammers who can couple it with other bits of personal data to then steal your identity.
- Phone Number -- Online software can allow fraudsters to see your phone number anyway. When you receive “robocalls,” responding to “opt out,” instructions may serve to notify the caller that the number works and has potential for future victimization. Making callbacks to offers of free merchandise may also reveal your phone number, which can then show up on the “suckers list” that scammers sell to others online. Avoid answering calls from numbers that you aren’t familiar with – legitimate businesses will leave a voicemail that you can return later.
- Driver’s License Number – Many states have stopped using Social Security Numbers to identify people, and instead use a unique driver’s license number. Often this is kept on file in financial aid offices and used in lieu of student ID numbers. But, be cautious: this number is tied to personal identifying information and can be another piece of the fraudster’s puzzle.
Read further: Identity Thieves Love These Numbers
Prevention is Key
As a student, identifying how to prevent identity theft may be easier than you realize. A few simple steps will reduce your risk of identity theft.
- Be Aware of Surroundings – Identity theft can happen in the blink of an eye: if someone snaps a picture of your credit card, finds a bank statement left on your desk, or grabs a credit card pre-approval from your trashcan, you are at risk. Your identity can be compromised by seemingly innocent things, so keep an eye on your surroundings and pay extra attention to your financial statements.
- Log Out – Today, everyone has a device in-hand to power their day. From phones to tablets and notebooks/laptops, apps tend to keep us on track. But many users tend to leave their phone apps open to personal information when they’re done. If that device lands in the wrong hands, it can only take a few seconds for thieves to do their damage. Get in the practice of logging out and logging in, or password-protecting your devices.
- Be Careful on Social Media -- Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Snapchat, Instagram… the list of social media sites is never-ending. But did you know that with your name, address, and birthdate, some scammers may be able to buy your social security number on websites? In fact, with your birthday and hometown, thieves can often guess all your digits. You may want to think twice about posting your birthdate on your profile.
- Be Smart about Passwords -- You can make it easy on you, but tough on identity theft thieves by frequently changing your passwords. Refrain from passwords that include your birthdate, zip code or phone number, instead using a phrase or a combination of unique letters and numbers.
- Get Help from the Pros – Did you know that Farm Bureau Financial Services offers Identity Services, which helps you monitor your ID, prevent theft, and pick up the pieces if your identity is ever stolen. It’s a coverage that can be added to an existing policy for an affordable rate (yes, even for a college student!).
For more information and tips on how to prevent identity theft, read: Identity Theft: Protect Yourself on Campus
As a student, you’re just beginning your financial life. You’re working hard to build a solid reputation, but it can be gone in a flash if your identity is stolen. Connect with a Farm Bureau Agent to learn more about Farm Bureau Financial Services' Identity Theft Protection.