Avoid an Identity Crisis

Page 8 of 11

Locked folder

Identity theft has hit an all-time high. As a student, you can take special precautions to make sure your personal information doesn’t fall into the hands of identity thieves. Here are some tips to help you keep your personal information safe.

Keep it secret.

If you live in a community setting, like a dorm or fraternity or sorority house, keep your personal papers, such as your birth certificate, Social Security card, transcripts, FAFSA form or other documents with personal information in a fire-proof lock box. These are relatively inexpensive to purchase and available from a variety of stores. It’s also a good idea to keep your passwords secret. If you must write them down to remember them, store them in the lock box with your other sensitive items.

Search and Destroy.

Instead of tossing documents that include sensitive information in the trash, use a cross-cut shredder to destroy them.

The Do’s.

  • Be on the lookout for bills that don’t arrive as usual.
  • Keep an eye out for charges to your account that you didn’t make.
  • Monitor your credit history by visiting AnnualCreditReport.com to get one free copy of your credit report each year from the three major consumer reporting agencies.
  • Remove your name from pre-approved credit card and insurance offer lists by visiting OptOutPreScreen.com. Your name can be removed for five years or permanently.
  • When shopping online, make sure the web address starts with https://. The “s” is very important; it signifies the site is secure. If you don’t see the “s” or a locked padlock icon at the bottom of the screen, don’t shop on the site.

The Don’ts.

  • Don’t carry your Social Security card in your wallet or have your number printed on checks.
  • Don’t give out personal information over the phone unless you initiated the contact.
  • Don’t use obvious passwords like your name, birth date or mother’s maiden name.
  • Don’t click on links sent in unsolicited emails. If you get an email from your bank or another company, go to the website you usually use and log in to verify the request. Fake sites can be easily manipulated to look like the real thing.

Deal with it.

If you find yourself a victim of identity theft, take the following steps to begin damage control.

  1. Contact one of the three major consumer reporting agencies to place a fraud alert on your report. Fraud alerts prevent a thief from opening more accounts in your name.
    Equifax: 800.525.6285
    Experian: 888.397.3742
    TransUnion: 800.680.7289
  2. File a police report. Most creditors will require this. If you can’t get a copy of the report, try to get the report number.
  3. Contact all of your creditors and close any accounts that have been misused or opened without your authorization.
  4. File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). If you’re unable to get a copy of your police report, the FTC has a standard form that is usually accepted by creditors. You can report identity theft through the FTC’s Identity Theft page or by calling 877.438.4338 (toll-free).

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