College students often look forward to moving out of their parents’ home and living on their own – with their own rules. Occasionally these new experiences could include fake identification to purchase cigarettes or alcohol. While this is not only against the law in all 50 states, it also makes the underage student vulnerable to potential identity theft when they order the fraudulent ID.
Personal information, including but not limited to your name, date of birth, address, Social Security number or email address, can be compromised in many ways, including hackers gaining unlawful access to computer files containing student information (even SSNs). Since identity theft can strike at any stage in life, whether you knowingly hand over your personal information to a criminal or not, LifeLock recommends college students do the following to help better protect their identities:
Keep it Real: A recent report by the Arizona Republic has identified identity theft rings in China that offer underage students the opportunity to purchase a fake ID that looks like “the real thing” and is often undetectable as a fake. These fake ID shops are a cover for more elaborate identity theft rings. More frequently, these rings are targeting college campuses where students are willing to pay a small fee and willingly hand over personally identifiable information in order to get a fake ID. Follow the law and use your real identification. Creating a fake ID can cause more harm than good.
Wi-Fi! Why Not? – Many campuses offer free Wi-Fi services, which can be great for research or just surfing. When connected through a free Wi-Fi connection, understand that the connection is not always secure and identity thieves may have the ability to intercept wireless activity and see where you are going and what you are doing. Avoid social networking sites, online bill pay, checking your financial accounts and shopping online when connected via free Wi-Fi.
Credit – One Size Fits All – Consider relying on your credit card vs. your debit card. If you and your debit card are targeted by an identity thief, you could potentially lose the money you have in your checking or savings account. If your credit card is compromised by an unscrupulous thief, you have 60 days to notify your financial institution and you won’t be out your direct checking and savings account funds, instead your line of credit.
Here’s My Number – Some colleges/universities may still use your Social Security number as your student identification number. If this is the case at your school, request a unique identifier instead of your Social Security number. Keep your Social Security card locked in a safe place where no one, not even a new roommate, can access.
Weekend Getaways: As college students near the end of each semester, email offers frequently arise for long-weekend vacations. Identity thieves can pose as trusted sources offering you the “deal of the day” if you just follow their link. Verify all offers by opening a new Web browser and typing in the official web address to confirm the authenticity of the offer.