7 Ways to Protect Yourself from Identity Theft on Campus

Identity theft is scary and can happen to anyone, anywhere.

Here are some tips to help you protect your personal and financial information while at college:

1. Use unique passwords with numbers, letters, and symbols.
If youre using one password for everything, youre vulnerable to attack. Keep passwords distinct and unique for each of your devices. For example, dont let your Gmail password be the same as your Facebook password. Create your own system to help you create smart and unique passwords for every device, app, or program youre using.

2. Be aware of the dangers of using public wifi.
We all want to use free wifi, but it comes at a cost of your privacy at times. You never know what hackers might be around gathering info off your computer. It doesnt happen all the time, but its an easy way for someone to gather content off your computer or watch you type in passwords. If youre going to be on public wifi, be aware of the dangers and take precautions.

3. Keep your wallet and/or purse in a secure place (and always know where it is).
If you go to a party, be mindful of where your wallet and/or purse is located. Unfortunately, people steal these items at parties so keep track of what youve brought. If possible, dont bring any credit cards or financial info with you since its not needed.

4. Dont carry all your personal and financial information with you.
One simple mistake we can make is leaving all our personal identifying info and financial cards in our wallet. Audit your wallet and make sure you need everything in there with you at all times. Sure, your student I.D. card and drivers license is essential, but do you need a credit card or bank card with you at all times? Think about what you need depending on where youre going.

5. Know whats in your wallet.
Write down the names, account numbers, and phone numbers for any bank or financial institution you have credit with. If your purse or wallet gets stolen, know who to call immediately. In fact, have a list of phone numbers ready to go in case youve lost your wallet or purse.

6. Review your credit report every 4 months.
By law, you have access to your Experian, TransUnion and Equifax credit reports for free every year through AnnualCreditReport.com. Take advantage of this and pull a credit report from one bureau each 4 months to ensure nobody has opened up a credit account in your name.

7. Set-up a fraud alert (or if necessary a security freeze) on your credit report if you suspect fraud.
If you notice any strange credit accounts on your credit report, immediately set-up a fraud alert to alert any potential creditors that you suspect fraud. And then immediately dispute these items with the credit bureau reporting and creditor listing the incorrect information. The sooner you report, the better off youll be. If necessary, you can add a security freeze to your credit reports to literally lock it down so nobody can open up a credit line in your name. You can thaw out your credit report when youre ready by using a unique pin number.

For more information on identity theft and what to do, check out these helpful resources: