Identity thieves have long been among the most resourceful criminals out there. As consumer awareness grows and cyber security systems catch up to their methods, they find new ways to scam unsuspecting victims. They are the cockroaches of the criminal world, and their new target is probably the most perfect victim yet—the trusting, distracted, newly liberated college student. Why are college students so vulnerable to attack?
Why Identity Thieves Target College Students
Simply put, college students are easy targets. They—and their parents—don’t think about the risks and don’t take measures to protect themselves. After all, students have no credit and very little money, so what is there to steal? From an identity thief’s perspective—plenty. With access to some personal information, thieves can get credit cards in students’ names, access their bank accounts, and even take out loans in their names. How do they get the personal information? Unfortunately, college students often make it all too easy by doing the following:
Throwing out pre-approved credit card offers.
College students are flooded with offers for credit cards and toss them out like any other piece of garbage. However, by plucking these out of the dumpster, a thief can fill out the form or call the 800 number, change the address, and get a credit card in the student’s name. What could be easier? This mail needs to be shredded, or better, yet, stopped altogether.
Leaving laptops lying around.
College campuses create a false sense of security. Students take their laptops with them everywhere, and a thief can easily grab one out of a backpack, off a library study table, or unattended in the dining hall. With access to a student’s laptop, thieves will be able to get into the student’s bank accounts, shopping sites, social media accounts, student records, and more—all with login information saved!
Not checking account balances.
Many college students are new to managing their own finances, and many have their accounts fed or paid by their parents, so they don’t think to verify activity or balance their checking or savings accounts. Students also aren’t very likely to check their credit reports, assuming there is nothing on there to see. As a result, someone could be using their credit or debit card, and they may not realize it for months.
Not protecting Social Security Numbers.
This is starting to change, but some colleges still use Social Security Numbers as student ID numbers, so students are used to handing them out like candy. The SSN is the key to accessing all kinds of sensitive financial information and should not be given to anyone without a good reason.
Losing a cell phone or wallet.
Stealing a purse or wallet seems like kind of an old-fashioned crime these days, but wallets still contain everything a thief needs to access someone’s identity—particularly if you carry your Social Security card around with you (which you shouldn’t!). Stealing a phone, however, is the modern day equivalent as students often have banking apps, payment apps, credit card apps, shopping apps, and all kinds of things open and ready to use on their phones.
The best way to protect college students from identity theft? Advise them NOT to do any of the above!
When a College Student Might Need a Consumer Lawyer
If you are a college student or the parent of one, you might want to consider hiring a California consumer attorney if accounts have been opened in your name by identity thieves and the credit reporting agencies are not cooperating in your efforts to get them removed. When you contact me, I will look into the possibility of not only cleaning up your credit but suing the agency for damages. Take my advice to protect yourself, but call me if you get into trouble!
Feel free to contact me online or call me directly at 855.982.2400.