Identity theft is a growing problem in our society today. In fact, throughout 2006, 8.4 million Americans were victims of identity theft. Identity theft occurs when an individual’s personal information is stolen, allowing the thief to take on the identity of the individual to commit theft or fraud. In order for someone to steal another individual’s identity, they only need three key pieces of information: another individual’s full name, birthday, and social security number. Therefore, these are three personal assets that all persons should work harder to protect, especially college students.
College students who fall into the age range of 18-24 years old are the most likely victims of identity theft. The reasons for this are that individuals in this age range are less likely to monitor their credit closely, use spyware, and shred documents that contain personal financial information. All of these mistakes are to the advantage of the thieves who use these common techniques to commit identity theft. These facts confirm that protecting one’s identity is more important now than ever. Therefore, listed below are the top ten ways you can be proactive in the fight against identity theft.
- Pay attention to your billing cycles. If you notice some of your mail is missing, this could be a red flag that you have been a victim of identity theft.
- Always shred important documents that contain information including: social security number, credit card account numbers, or bank account numbers.
- Guard your credit cards and other personal information by not carrying unnecessary identity information in a purse or wallet, i.e., your Social Security card.
- Do not use obvious passwords.
- Be aware of e-mail scams and never download files or click on links sent by strangers.
- Be sure to update your computer’s virus protection software regularly.
- Before getting rid of an old computer, destroy the hard drive and use a “wipe” software program.
- Review your credit card statements and telephone bills for unauthorized use. If you suspect fraud, call the company immediately.
- Order a credit report routinely using www.annualcreditreport.com.
- If you’re a victim of identity theft, report the crime to the police immediately.
Identity theft can be prevented. Therefore, use these tips to stay proactive about protecting your identity. If you would like more information about identity theft, or help looking at your credit report, you can make an appointment with Powercat Financial Counseling at www.k-state.edu/pfc.
Anna Govert Peer Counselor II Powercat Financial Counseling www.k-state.edu/pfc