Preventing College Student Identity Theft

August 25, 2009

Identity theft probably isn’t the primary concern of most college students heading off to school this fall, however, college campuses can be big targets of identity theft.  With so many people living together in such close quarters it can be a hot spot for thieves and dishonest students to take advantage of other unsuspecting students.

If you’re going away to school for the first time or returning for another year, it’s extremely important to take certain precautions to keep your identity and money safe. Here are a few tips to help you avoid identify theft.

Set a password on your computer, lock your computer when away from it.

This is easy to do, and it will deflect most common computer users. Although, if your computer is stolen by a decent computer hacker, they’ll be able to get past the screen saver password so don’t store passords to your online bank accounts or other sensitive information on your computer. Make sure that you never leave your computer unattended in public such as the library, student union, or cafeteria. When you leave your laptop in your dorm room you could even stash it out of plain site.

Avoid revealing too much personal detail on social networking sites.

Every piece of information that identity thieves can gather about you is another clue to stealing your identity.  Seemingly harmless pieces of information individually (birthday, address, phone number, etc) can add up over time and eventually make you a victim of identity theft.

Not only is this good for your security, but can also protect your future career. Remember, everything you post on Facebook, Twitter, or MySpace could end up being seen by the wrong people at the wrong time. Use social networking wisely, and don’t post pictures that might compromise your reputation or give off the wrong idea about you.

Don’t let anyone borrow your credit or debit cards.

This might not sound like something you’d ever think about doing, but you’ll be running across dozens of “mooches” at school. They might ask you, “Hey man, can I just borrow your card to order a pizza, I’ll give you the cash”, but don’t trust them unless you are really close to them. Don’t give out your credit card number or debit card number to anyone, write it anywhere, or store it anywhere on your computer.

Don’t open a tab on your credit card and forget it.

I’ve never done this, but I’ve come close! You never know who might be working behind the bar and if they’ll abuse your card if you leave it there overnight. Make sure your designated driver reminds everyone to close out their tabs. If you’re walking home or taking public transportation, write a note on your hand to remind yourself.

Call right away if credit card stolen or lost.

Do not wait until the next morning if you think you lost or had your credit card stolen. Credit card companies have 24 hour customer service, and it will be much easier on yourself and the credit card company if you report it right away. Even if you end up finding it a couple of days later, it’s better safe than sorry, and you’ll receive a new card usually within a week.

You aren’t personally responsible for an unauthorized credit or debit transaction, but you can make a much stronger case that it wasn’t you if you report it as soon as you think it’s been lost or stolen.

Don’t keep cash in your dorm room, use debit card instead

Identity theives take your identity so they can steal money.  If you just leave your money lying around, they can just skip the identity part and go right after your cash. It’s not that you don’t trust your roommate (or maybe you don’t), but when you aren’t there, your roommate could be bringing in all kinds of people to the room that you’ve never met before. It’s always a good idea to keep your cash on you or better yet, use a debit card for most transactions.

If you’ve never had your identity or credit card stolen in the past, let me assure you it can drain a lot of your time and money trying to get the situation straightened out. Here are some more identity theft tips to help protect your money and your credit.


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Erik Folgate is a husband and father living in Orlando who's been writing about money online for 6 years. Digging himself out of $20k of debt after college and his former experience in the insurance industry give him some useful insights into personal finance issues.

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6 Responses to Preventing College Student Identity Theft

  • Dan

    I do believe that we have to be more responsible regarding the amount of information we share online because we will never know when fraudsters strike. Students need to be informed on how to safeguard their account numbers as they use their computers or while making a purchase with their credit cards. Fraudulent people have various ways on how to access other people’s information and it is up to us to prevent this from happening to us.

  • Lisa

    Identity theft is very prevalent and it’s true that more and more students are becoming victim of this crime. I think mainly because students tend to be more socialized than other more mature people. Especially on the Internet. There are a lot of malicious hackers that know the ins and the outs of the Internet and social networking is very hot these days. Seems that every students have their own accounts in myspace, facebook etc. So everyone, be careful with your social profiles. And be suspicious with emails links and such especially those coming from people you don’t know…

  • RateNerd

    Most parents think it’s crazy to worry about their kid’s credit and financial reputations, but in recent years, children and adolescents have become the fastest growing sector of identity fraud victims.
    Sadly, from the time your children receive Social Security numbers, which often happens within days of birth, their personal information needs to be monitored and protected so that they don’t become targets of identity fraud.


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