Better Business Bureau: College-age adults, protect yourself from ID theft
If you're a young adult, you may think older people are most vulnerable to identity theft. They're still adapting to new technology, right? That isn't the case. Statistics show the age group most at risk is college-age adults.
With school, work and busy social lives, young adults often aren't as careful as they should be with personal information. Better Business Bureau wants to warn college-age adults of their vulnerability to identity theft.
According to the Consumer Sentinel Network, 57,491 consumers between 20 and 29 had their identities stolen in 2012. That's 21 percent of the ID theft complaints reported last year, the largest of any 10-year age range.
College-age adults attract identity thieves because they often have good, clean credit scores. It pays for students to be aware of identity theft, scams and other rip-offs they might face living on their own for the first time.
The Better Business Bureau offers these simple steps college students can take to protect their identity:
Secure your mail. Campus mailboxes are often easily accessed in a dorm or apartment. Have sensitive mail sent to a permanent address such as your parents' home or invest in a secure post office box. This will also lessen the complications of multiple addresses.
Store safely. This includes your social security card, passport and bank and credit card statements. Shred all paper documents that contain sensitive financial information and any credit card offers that come in the mail. To request a copy of your free credit report, the Better Business Bureau recommends using Experian, TransUnion or Equifax.
Safeguard your information. Don't share your information with anyone without knowing why it's needed. Most schools now use a student identification number instead of a social security number for added protection.
Check your statements frequently. Look for any suspicious activity or purchases on your debit or credit cards. The sooner you identify potential fraud, the sooner any fraudulent charges can be refunded.
Check your credit report at least once a year. You are entitled to a free credit report once a year. Request a report and look for any suspicious activity or inaccuracies.
Consider identity theft protection services. If you are unable to routinely monitor your accounts and information, consider enrolling in identity theft protection services. These services help monitor your credit and public records for suspicious activity and will alert you if and when something is found. Some of these services also offer additional recovery and resolution help should you fall victim to identity theft.
Tracy Bracy is the regional director of the Better Business Bureau for Corpus Christi/Victoria. Contact her by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.