September marks the annual migration of college students flocking back to college campuses. With student loan debt topping $1.2 trillion, we recently wrote about ways to trim the fat from college costs.
But one of the biggest financial threats facing college students may be identity theft. According to Credit.com, college students ages 18 to 24 face the highest risk of identity theft among adults, partly because they often live in shared housing where others can access their computers, files and other financial facts of life.
Here are some ways students can reduce the odds of becoming a victim of I.D. theft:
Buy a cross-cut shredder. Shred any "preapproved" credit card offers or statements from bank or credit card companies. "Dumpster-diving is an epidemic on campuses because thieves know most students throw these offers away unopened," according to Credit.com.
Use a safe. Lock up important papers like student loan documents and tuition paper work so they're not exposed to prying eyes.
Review bank statements. Only about one-third of college students balance their checkbooks, but checking your monthly statement is an easy way to spot fraudulent charges that might be a sign of identity theft. You can sign up for cellphone or online banking that lets you see your statement instantly.
Protect your computer. Even if your new roommate seems trustworthy, the same might not be true for his or her friends or classmates. Before heading to campus, update your computer's security software. Use strong passwords with at least 8 characters and a combination of upper/lower case letters and symbols.
Use mailboxes. Don't drop your outgoing mail in a loose box in a dorm office. Always use secure U.S. Postal Service drop boxes.
Don't store logins on cell phones. Keep a password on your cellphone, which can easily be lost or stolen during hectic campus life. You don't want logins to accounts available to whoever finds it. If your phone is lost, contact your provider immediately.