The college experience is full of newfound freedom, but it also comes with risks. You may be living on your own for the first time—exciting! But if you’re not careful, you could expose yourself to financial crimes that result from being careless with personal information.
Identity theft is a major issue, and college students are especially vulnerable to it. Javelin Strategy and Research conducted a survey that revealed 64% of students aren’t too concerned about fraud . It’s no wonder they’re hot commodities for thieves.
Let’s dive into why college-aged individuals are more prone to student identity theft and how you can protect yourself against it.
Why Is College Student Identity Theft So Common?
Many young adults aren’t aware of identity theft risks, which makes them susceptible to them. How can you avoid becoming a victim if you don’t know how to protect yourself?
Here are three key reasons why college student identity theft is prevalent:
- College Students Use Public Wi-Fi
Free Wi-Fi is all fun and games until you get hacked. If public Wi-Fi isn’t encrypted, hackers can access your data and steal passwords by logging onto an open network like those at libraries or cafes.
If you must connect to public Wi-Fi, follow these tips to ensure a safe browsing experience:
- Avoid any website that isn’t secure with https://.
- Don’t sign into financial accounts.
- Log out of everything when you’re done.
- Use unique passwords for all websites.
- Don’t visit sites that save and store your personal information.
- Invest in a VPN to get a secure connection everywhere.
- There’s a Higher Chance of Stolen Devices with Personal Data
Laptops are a common target for theft, and thieves can sell them on the black market. If you’re stepping away from your table to grab a coffee, bring your laptop with you. Don’t leave it unattended—it only takes minutes for someone to grab it while you’re not looking. If this happens, you may have no way of getting it back.
Safeguarding your laptop is crucial as a college student because it’s likely that sensitive information lives in there. For example, you may have stored financial information like credit card numbers and bank account passwords. If criminals gain access to these, they could potentially wipe your accounts.
- University Students Don’t Check Their Bank Accounts Enough
After relying on parents to pay for most things through high school, it makes sense that college students aren’t used to checking their bank accounts. Financial literacy and responsibility are new concepts for most young adults. Unfortunately, this makes them ideal targets for identity theft.
If an identity thief has access to your bank account, he/she can make fraudulent purchases and even take out a loan in your name! So, make it a habit to log into your bank account daily to catch suspicious activity. While you’re at it, sign up for transaction alerts on your phone, so you know when someone is trying to buy something or make changes to your account. The earlier you catch fraud, the quicker you can report it to your bank and do damage control.
RELATED >> Top 5 Money Mistakes of College Students
How to Protect Your Data in College
Protecting against identity theft doesn’t have to be complicated. Here are five steps you can take today to level up your security:
- Don’t give out personal information like credit card numbers or social security numbers unless necessary.
- Lock your laptop when not in use.
- When working in public, find a spot where people can’t see your screen.
- Use a free password manager to create and store reliable passwords.
- Use 2-factor authentication whenever possible—it’s an excellent layer of extra security!
Be Proactive and Protect Your Identity
College students often lack knowledge about personal information protection. This makes it easy for identity thieves to take advantage. But the good news is, you can take proactive steps to secure your identity. This includes regular bank account check-ins, using strong and unique passwords, and being cautious when sharing personal information online.
 Students More at Risk of Identity Theft: Tips and Resources to Stay Protected, Tulane University School of Professional Advancement