Q: I've heard a lot about college student identity theft on the news, and I was wondering if I should be concerned about keeping my college student's identity safe. If so, then are there steps or things that I can do to protect their identity?
A: Great question! Your concerns are completely legitimate, especially since people ages 20 to 29 have been the top victims of identity theft for the past three years, according to the Federal Trade Commission.
Luckily there are some steps that you can advise your college student to take in order to help them protect their identity. We'd recommend that before you share these tips with your college student, you explain to them the importance of protecting their identity and the seriousness of identity theft.
Here are five ways that college students can protect their identity.
1. Memorize personal information: College is the first time that a lot of young people have to rely on their themselves to know their social security number, date of birth or any other important personal information. Sometimes this can be overwhelming for young adults, so they write down or store the personal information on their phone, tablet or computer. This is one of the most dangerous things that they can do with their personal information because if their dorm or apartment is broken into and the information is stolen, then they are at serious risk of becoming a victim of identity theft. A way to prevent this situation from occurring is to memorize the personal information so they won't need to rely on the paper or device.
2. Shred pre-approved credit card offers: Every college student — and adult — should invest in a shredder for their home because they can protect their identity by simply shredding pre-approved credit card offers and any other junk mail. Identity thieves often go through consumer's garbage because if they find a pre-approved credit card offer or any mail that contains personal information, then they already have the first couple of pieces to begin the process of stealing their identity.
3. Store personal information safely at dorm or home: A lot of college students don't necessarily understand how sensitive some documents, such as student loan documents, actually are, so it's essential that they know how to store their information in a safe place — such as a safe, lock box or a locked filing cabinet.
4. Check credit card and bank account statements regularly: College students should pay close attention to their credit card and banking statements, and take the extra time to go through each transaction to make sure there are no fraudulent or unfamiliar charges. If they find and unfamiliar charge, then they should report it to the bank as fraud.
5. Report lost or stolen student ID cards: Students need to be aware of their student ID card, and — when it goes missing — they should report it stolen or lost. Some colleges assign social security numbers as student ID numbers, and college students at those colleges should report their ID lost or stolen once when realize it's gone.
If identity theft is something you worry about as a parent or you fear that your college student will fall victim to identity theft, then you might want to consider signing your college student up for an identity theft protection service. These services monitor someone's personal information and alert them if they notice the information is being sold or traded on the Internet black market. Identity theft protection services also monitor activity on credit reports and send alerts when anything on any of the credit reports change.
College students 18 years old or older will have to sign up as adults, but if they are younger than 18, then you can sign them up as a child — which is a cheaper option. All of reviewed identity theft protection services offer memberships for adults. Identity Guard and Lifelock also offer identity theft protection for children under the age of 18, and TrustedID offers a family plan that protects an unlimited number of people who have the same primary address.
Check out our identity theft protection compare chart to see which identity theft protection service will best fit your college student's needs and read this blog post to find out why these services are useful.id theft questions, Identity Theft Protection, Reader Questions