Editorial: College students should protect themselves from identity theft

Editorial Staff

As if we didn’t already have enough on our plates, identity theft is becoming more and more of an issue for college students.

Identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in the United States, costing victims more than $5 billion annually, according to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.

Research has shown that college students from the ages of 18 to 24 are faced with the highest risk of identity theft among adults, part of the reason being that they share dorms or apartments with strangers who can have access to personal files on their computers, according to a 2006 U.S. Department of Justice report.

Unfortunately, this isn’t the only way college students are getting their identities stolen.

Students often keep their usernames and passwords to personal accounts in their phones, and phones can easily get lost or stolen on campus.

Students also make the mistake of keeping themselves logged into their accounts, or repeating username and password information for multiple accounts. According to Credit.com, just this year, hackers cracked databases containing the passwords of up to50 million LivingSocial users, and another 50 million users of Evernote.

In no time at all, this confidential information is literally at the touch of somebody else’s fingertips.

As soon as the information is obtained, the thief can open up credit cards, take out loans in your name or write bad checks, according to the NAIC.

“Imagine graduating from college with thousands of dollars of unauthorized debt and a wrecked credit rating because of identity theft,” said the NAIC on their official website.

So what are the steps you should take to ensure that you are not a victim of identity theft?

Many financial advisers suggest buying paper shredders to destroy any credit card offers or statements from banks or credit card companies.

According to Credit.com, “Dumpster-diving is an epidemic on campuses because thieves know most students throw these offers away unopened.”

The NAIC also suggests limiting the amount of information you place online, such as social networks or a university directory. Anybody can read what you’re posting on Facebook or  Twitter.

Restoring bad credit and fixing wrong information is a long and tedious process, especially for busy college students.

Do a service to yourself by taking precautionary steps in order to protect your identity from being stolen before it’s too late.