While adults have been learning about the workings of criminal scams and fraud, many college-aged students get failing grades in terms of protecting their personal and financial information, according to Connecticut Better Business Bureau.
A recent BBB analysis found that college students are among consumers most at risk of becoming a fraud victim. This is due in part because many of them believe they are immune to being scammed, as well as their lack of experience managing money and personal information. The study concluded students are risk-takers and spend considerable time browsing and shopping online, where numerous types of fraud dominate the digital landscape.
There are significant long term consequences for students who underestimate their vulnerability to fraud. They include unauthorized debits or charges on their credit cards, and worst of all, identity theft. ID theft can ruin a victim’s credit history, make it difficult or impossible to obtain credit for things like buying a car and renting an apartment. Credit problems caused by identity theft may even interfere with employment opportunities in certain sectors. These problems can haunt them for years and are difficult to fix.
The threats of ID theft and other fraud are abundant on college campuses, particularly in dormitories. College students have to learn the basics of how to protect themselves from fraud and ID theft and modify their behavior accordingly.
Connecticut BBB says college students and their parents should understand that even though they may possess strong computer skills, there is no correlation between being tech-savvy and safe browsing. There is a big difference between knowing how the technology works as opposed to taking steps to protect themselves.
BBB offers tips to help college students avoid fraud:
- Tighten digital security — Whether you use a laptop or desktop computer, it is essential to download and apply security patches, which are often created to close exploits that cyber criminals use to hack into victims’ computers.
- Protect your smart devices — Tablets and smartphones should be password-protected and have tracking software installed in case the device is lost or stolen.
- Keep sensitive documents safe — Credit cards, passports, financial records should be secured. If you don’t have a place to store them, consider leaving them at home. Shred documents you don’t need rather than tossing them in the garbage.
- Understand the ins and outs of mail interception — “Ins” refers to any sensitive incoming mail. Instead, have it delivered to your parents’ address or a US Postal Service post office box on or off campus. “Outs” refers to putting outgoing mail with personal information directly into a USPS collection box.
- Carefully review all statements — That means credit card, bank account and utility bills, to make sure there are no unauthorized charges, whether by mistake or deliberately.
Check AnnualCreditReport.com — This is the government-sanctioned, free service run by the credit bureaus. There are no strings attached. The website will ask for your Social Security number and date of birth to authenticate your identity.