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Tech-savvy students not so savvy about ID theft

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DALLAS (9/3/08)--Despite a high level of technological know-how, college students and other young adults unwittingly make themselves vulnerable to identity theft. These young adult victims then run into serious financial trouble when they apply for a job, insurance, apartment, or mortgage ( Aug. 18). College students in particular are frequent targets of identity thieves, for good reason. Many students arrive on campus with little or no warning about the consequences of personal data theft. Apartments and dorm rooms provide easy access to anyone who wants to swipe personal documents or Social Security numbers (Channel 3000 Aug. 18). And students flock to enticing come-ons of credit-card solicitors who set up tables during registration and those who fill students’ mailboxes with credit card applications. Young adults ages 18 to 29 make up 28% of all identity theft complaints filed, according to the 2008 Consumer Fraud and Identity Theft Complaint Data report issued in February by the Federal Trade Commission. Take precautions to safeguard personal information:
* Buy a shredder. Shred documents you no longer need and that contain personal information--such as report cards, account statements after reconciling them, paycheck stubs, and housing and class information. * Safeguard your computer. Install a firewall and download updates to your anti-virus protection software. Visit to find free downloads. * Monitor credit reports. This probably won’t make the top 10 of most college students’ to-do lists. However, parents should urge a student to order a free credit report annually from each of the three major credit bureaus and check for inaccuracies and suspicious activity. Order reports from * Opt out of junk mail. Visit or call 888-5 opt-out (888-567-8688) to rid your mailbox of preapproved credit card and insurance offers. A thief could use these offers to open an account in your name. * Open mail, then file or shred it. Don’t leave mail or sensitive data lying around the apartment or dorm room. Keep Social Security numbers and other important documents containing personal information in a safe, locked place; carry your Social Security card only if you need it for a specific purpose that day. And unless you initiated the contact, don’t respond to e-mails, phone calls, or text messages soliciting your personal identification numbers (PINs), login information, account numbers, Social Security number, or other personal information. * Don’t fall for freebies. Just say “no” to free t-shirts and pizza coupons. To obtain a credit card, talk with professionals at the credit union, not with solicitors at booths on campus. * Be safe on social-networking websites. Simply by viewing a Facebook page, an identity thief can see what you look like and learn your address, place of employment, class schedule, interests, date of birth, e-mail address, and more. Limit what you post and who can access your profile.
For more information, read “Be Cautiously Sociable on Social Networking Sites” in Home & Family Resource Center.