Identity Theft Expert Robert Siciliano

Why? Because they don’t care! September is National Campus Safety Awareness Month, and I’m teaming up with Uni-Ball pens to urge college students to protect their personal safety and security. Uni-Ball pens and the Identity Theft Resource Center surveyed 1,000 college students and 1,000 parents. This Campus Security Survey revealed that while about 74% of parents believe students are at a moderate to high risk for identity theft, and 30% of all identity theft victims are between 18 and 29, only 21% of students are concerned about identity theft.

It’s no surprise that most college students are indifferent when it comes to their personal and information security. When you are in your late teens or early twenties, you feel a sense of invincibility. However, once you have a few years under your belt, you begin to mature and gradually realize the world isn’t all about keg parties and raves. Hopefully if all goes well, you adopt some wisdom by the time you’re 30.

Here are a few more interesting statistics from the Campus Security Survey.

  • 89% of parents have discussed safety measures with their kids, yet kids continue to engage in risky behavior
  • 40% of students leave their apartment or dorm doors unlocked
  • 40% of students have provided their Social Security numbers online
  • 50% of students shred sensitive data
  • 9% of students share online passwords with friends
  • 1 in 10 have allowed strangers into their apartments
  • Only 11% use a secure pen (which can prevent check washing fraud) when write checks

College students have always been easy marks because their credit is ripe for the taking. Students’ Social Security numbers have traditionally been openly displayed on student badges, testing information, in filing cabinets and databases all over campus. Landlords and those involved in campus housing also have access to students identifying information.

The study concluded, “Students who ignore their own personal security are not only putting themselves at risk for identity theft, they are also putting their parents at risk. While getting established in the real world, it’s common practice among college students to use their parents’ names, bank account numbers and other personal information to co-sign loans and leases, write tuition and housing checks, register online to receive grades and more. So when online criminals strike, they are often manipulating parents’ personal data, not just the students’.” Any parent sending their children off to college should be concerned.

How to protect yourself:

  1. Lock your doors! The transient nature of college life means people are coming and going and thievery is more likely to happen. Just because you may come from a small town and do not lock your doors, that doesn’t make it okay at school.
  2. Limit the amount of information you give out. While you may have to give out certain private data, refuse whenever possible.
  3. Shred everything! Old bank statements, credit card statements, credit card offers and other account number bearing documents need to be shredded when no longer needed.
  4. Lock down your PCs. Make sure your Internet security software is up to date. Install spyware removal software. Lock down your wireless connection. Use strong passwords that include upper and lowercase letters as well as numbers. And never share passwords.
  5. Secure your signature. Use Uni-Ball gel pens to write rent checks and sign documents. They cost as little as $2 and contain Uni “Super Ink,” which is specially formulated to reduce document fraud and check washing, a popular form of identity theft.
  6. Be alert for online scams. Never respond to emails or text messages that are purportedly coming from your bank. Always log into your bank account manually via your favorites menu.
  7. Invest in Intelius Identity theft protection and prevention. Not all forms of identity theft can be prevented, but identity theft protection services can dramatically reduce your risk.
  8. Get a credit freeze. Go to ConsumersUnion.org and follow the steps for your particular state. In most cases, this prevents new accounts from being opened in your name.

Robert Siciliano, identity theft speaker, discusses identity theft protection and check washing on TBS’s Movie and a Makeover.

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