There's no denying that safety is a hot topic on college campuses everywhere. It's one of the first things parents ask about on tours and only gets more ingrained in our minds once we actually move into the school of our choice. Don't walk alone at night, lock your doors, don't leave valuables in plain sight. All of this is common sense. You're a smart girl. Crime only happens to other people. Well, it's time to face the facts. College students are one of the most vulnerable groups when it comes to identity theft. You may be thinking, “But I barely have enough money in my bank account to buy a latte, why would anyone ever want to steal the identity of a poor college student?” Well, that attitude is exactly why you're the perfect victim.
Dictionary.com describes identity theft as “the crime of obtaining the personal or financial information of another person for the purpose of assuming that person's name to make transactions or purchases.” While many credit card companies use humor to promote their identity theft services, like this one from Citibank, this crime is no laughing matter. It often takes years to get your identity back. Though credit card theft is one of the most common forms of this crime, overlooked things such as creating a simple password, leaving documents out in the open, and being overly trusting of companies are all potentially dangerous decisions.
Ask yourself these questions:
- Have you ever let one of your friends use your credit card to order something?
- Do you use an ATM machine while at school?
- Do you have a Facebook, Twitter or other social networking account?
- Do you shop online?
- Do you bring your license, credit or debit card out with you when you drink?
- Are you stressed out or overwhelmed with work?
How It Happens
In a feature on identity theft among college students, CBS News quoted Kim, a Tennessee student who was a victim of this type of crime. She told CBS, “My third day at college, I applied for several credit cards on campus. Five years later, I found out that all my personal information was posted on a Web site. I had cars bought in my name and credit accounts across the country.” Kim later found out that another student posted her personal information. Today, she is still feeling the effects of this security breech. Check out their interview with an expert for more information.
Why You’re A Target
These are all reasons why identity thieves see you as an ideal target. According to a New York Times article all it takes are a few pieces of personal information, and someone skilled at identity theft may be able to figure out something as private as your Social Security Number. What's worse is that this may not even be the result of your own carelessness. Often this information is obtained through what others post about you. A simple disclosure of age and location increases vulnerability. While you can delete those embarrassing photos or even your entire Facebook profile, erasing the effects of identity theft is not so simple. “Identity theft can affect so many things,” says Grace Kelly-Nartowicz, regional vice president of Primerica Financial Services. “It could ruin your entire credit history, and interfere with getting a job that does background checks.” Once your identity is stolen, it takes years to get it back.