As college students, we are all beginning to think about starting the next chapter of our lives after graduation. While moving away and starting your own life can seem like a wonderful time in your life, this also comes with a great deal of responsibility and many risks. According to an online survey done by The Harris Poll in 2018, there was a victim of identity theft every 2 seconds in 2017 which means there were over 7 million identity theft cases in total. Surprisingly, you are considered more likely to have your identity stolen than to have your car stolen or house robbed. The main cause of this is people sharing personal information online. As consumers, we are very dependent on the internet in today’s society, but many of us do not know how to protect ourselves against identity theft. In this blog, I will be sharing a few tips on how to prevent your identity from being stolen.
Have you ever received an email saying something along the lines of, “Congratulations! You have won $4 million in a recent drawing. All you have to do is wire $3,000 for taxes to claim the rest of your winnings.” Even though this may seem wonderful, these are always scams and will end up costing you thousands of dollars. Winners of these deals are never notified by regular mail or email, never asked to pay to claim the prize, and will pay the taxes directly to the government. Along with this, other scams you should watch out for are grants, foreign business deals, work-at-home schemes, and sweetheart swindles (fake friends).
Another tip with protecting your identity is simply protecting your social security number. For starters, do not carry your social security card with you because if you lose your wallet/purse, the thief will not only have your money, but they can also easily have access to your identity. Along with this, do not use your SSN as a password for anything. If a hacker ever gets ahold of your password, then they will also have your SSN. Finally, know the difference between who needs your SSN and who doesn’t. If somebody asks for your SSN, ask questions as to why they need it before actually giving it to them. Unless it is someone similar to your employer, bank, or government agency, they most likely do not need your SSN number. On top of all of this, be sure to check your credit report 3 times per year. This way you will know if a major change in your report happens, then someone has potentially stolen your identity and is hurting your credit. You can access your credit report 3 times per year (once through each of the credit bureaus: Experian, Equifax, and Transunion) for free at https://www.annualcreditreport.com.
One last tip to help you protect your identity as you start to live on your own is to be cautious with using public Wi-Fi. Advanced thieves have the ability to monitor your actions on unsecured public Wi-Fi. This gives them the opportunity to watch as you type in your credentials as you log into mobile banking sites or type in your card numbers.
Since money given to these thieves is often permanently gone, get advice from your state or local consumer protection agency before agreeing to anything online. For more information, you may want to take a look at the following websites: