College should be about finding your identity, not losing it. In a technological age where it’s easier than ever for someone to steal your personal information, it’s important that you know how to protect yourself against identity fraud.
1. Password Protect Everything
Technology like phones and laptops are likely to get stolen, especially if you accidentally leave them somewhere. It’s important to keep these things password protected, that way if you do lose or misplace them, no one else will be able to easily access your information.
2. Change Your Passwords
Changing your passwords often for your bank account, laptop, and even social media profiles can make it harder for anyone to access your information. Using different passwords for each platform also ensures that if someone gets access to one of your accounts, they can’t gain access to any of the others. Having multiple passwords is an inconvenience, but the hassle of remembering them all is more manageable than the hassle of having your identity stolen.
3. Avoid School Computers
Library or public computers can be convenient, but they can also be dangerous. It’s safer to use your own laptop to complete school work and browse the web. If you must use a public computer, though, refrain from making online purchases or doing anything that requires you to give out your credit card or Social Security Number or other personal data.
4. Avoid Scams
Be wary of who you give your personal information to. Very few people, like your employer and your university, need access to it. When in doubt, just don’t do it.
5. Shred Important Documents
Cross-cut shredders are affordable and compact, and if you don’t have one, a pair of scissors will work. Shredding old credit cards and sensitive documents before you throw them away is the safest way to ensure that no one will be able to retrieve them and piece together your information.
6. Hide Important Documents
For the documents you still need, keep them in a secure place. A small safe only you have the combination to is the most secure method of storing them, but if you don’t have a safe, find a hiding spot no one else knows about. This will keep your information safe from intruders and nosey roommates.
7. Check Your Bank Account
The more often and the more thoroughly you check your bank account and credit card statements, the sooner you’re likely to identify any unwarranted purchases made under your name. Some banks even monitor suspicious activity for you and will call or text you to verify purchases they think might have been made without your consent. Talk to your financial institution to see if they offer this feature and take advantage of it if they do.
8. Take Action Immediately
If you notice any suspicious purchases on your credit or debit card, alert your financial institution and law enforcement authorities immediately. If you lose your wallet or have it stolen, cancel all the cards you had in it as soon as you’re sure you’re not likely to find them. New cards and papers can always be ordered, and it’s always better to be safe rather than sorry.
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