If you asked 100 people which age group is most targeted for identity theft, most of those polled would respond that it’s those who are ages 30 to 50, because those are the people who are working and building credit.
The most targeted group for identity theft is students, ages 18 to 29. Why? Because students often don’t know enough about the threat of identity theft to know how to protect themselves, and they don’t check their credit reports. So a crime against a student can go undetected for a very long time.
Students are often preoccupied with classes, housing, stretching their tight budgets, financial aid, buying books, homework, exams…the list goes on and on. What most aren’t worried about is identity theft. If they do think about it, they think it’s a crime that won’t happen to them. They figure, “I don’t have any money or credit. Why would anyone want to steal my identity?”
The truth is that identity theft isn’t just about stealing someone’s money – it’s about stealing his good name and credit. Unfortunately, college students are a prime target due to lax habits and indifference.
More than half of all college students receive multiple pre-approved credit offers each week. Those forms, already partially filled out with student information, is a great opportunity for an ID thief to steal a student’s identity. If a student just throws away the form, a thief can easily fill it out and obtain the credit card in that student’s name.
Another danger to students is the availability of their Social Social Security numbers. Many college courses require a student to use his number to log in to post homework assignments or participate in course communications. Universities also sometimes use SSNs as an identifying number in the administration office.
Students often use their SSNs so often that they forget to be diligent to protect it. Lax computer security or even something as simple as a criminal watching a student enter the number can provide a criminal with easy access to not only the number but to additional personal information about an individual.
Students shouldn’t overlook one of the most common ways to steal a person’ identity – stealing a wallet, purse or backpack. This can happen even in a dorm room. Students should exercise caution in all circumstances and environments.
Some tips for students:
• Shred all documents containing personal information.
• Don’t let mail pile up, particularly in common areas.
• Always log out of secure sites before exiting the program.
• Never store personal information or username and password combinations on your computer’s hard drive.
• Use secure passwords.
• Shop only on secure websites.
• Be care about giving out your Social Security number.