You may not realize it, but fraudsters find millennials — college students in particular — to be prime targets for identity theft by obtaining valuable pieces of personal information from your college records, social media posts, and other online activity. What’s even better for the fraudster is that neither the students, nor their parents, consider looking at their credit report before it’s too late.
From a thieves’ point of view, they see a student’s identity as an easy, unsuspecting, and fruitful target. Think about it – a database on any college campus is full of personally identifiable information. This isn’t much different from a database at a national retailer or health care provider. All that information in one place becomes an easy target, especially when the potential victims aren’t paying very close attention themselves.
Once they have your social security number and combine it with additional pieces of your personal information (pulled from online activity or breached data), they SELL IT on the black market, or use for their own personal gain: new credit card, tax return, even in a job application or streaming services.
WHAT TO WATCH OUT FOR
- Bogus telephone calls requiring immediate payment on erroneous items such as a “federal student tax.” There’s no such thing!
- Clicking links in unsolicited emails. Your financial institution, the IRS, your college bursar communications can all be replicated. Click with caution.
- Credit card promotions – don’t be fooled! Fraudulent offers appear in your inbox regularly. Unknowingly handing over your social security number along with other identifying information to the wrong person can be a costly mistake.
- Work-study students – a campus trend has surfaced where you’re asked to update your records through an email link. Fraudsters then gain access to those records and are able to transfer your hard-earned paycheck into their cushy account.
- Dorm rooms are like revolving doors; don’t leave bank account, social security cards or other personal information (think FAFSA application) in easy reach. You never know who is lurking.
- Use caution when allowing third-party applications on Facebook access your phone. You may innocently give permission to access all the information contained in your personal profile, your activity, your friends and more.
KEEP A CAREFUL WATCH ON YOUR CREDIT. BUT THAT’S NOT ALL.
Get a credit report, early! The Federal Trade Commission cite identity theft and fraud at the top their complaint list year after year, and recommend obtaining your first credit report as early as 16 years old. If there are issues, this will allow time to correct them before credit checks for apartment rentals, employment, and loans become a problem. Nevertheless, protecting your identity doesn’t stop with an annual credit report review. Unfortunately, your credit report alone doesn’t tell the whole story. (Plus who is looking out for you the rest of the year?)