The Suffolk County Police Department’s Identity Theft Unit reminds parents to remain vigilant against identity theft as their children begin their college careers away from home.
College students are especially vulnerable to identity theft as they experience life on their own away from home for the first time. They are more trusting and less diligent about checking their financial statements in a timely manner. According to data compiled by Javelin Strategy and Research, individuals between the ages of 18 and 24 are more likely to not discover their identities have been compromised for 132 days, which is five times longer than other age groups.
"Nobody is immune to having their identity stolen," said Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy. "Parents and their children must work together to ensure that college students leaving home for the first time are prepared to protect their financial well-being."
Below are some tips college students and their parents should consider:
- Make sure your adult child is starting school with a clean slate. Copies of credit reports from the three major credit bureaus can be found at www.annualcreditreport.com. This may not be recommended for minor children living at home unless there is suspicion that their identities have been compromised.
- Never lend out your credit/debit card or give your PIN number to anyone.
- Check your credit or debit card as well as bank statements as soon as you receive them for suspicious activity. You may be responsible for any unauthorized charges if not reported within 60 days after receiving your credit card statement.
- Parents should receive all critical or sensitive correspondence at home or have it sent to a post office box.
- Keep documents containing sensitive personal information in a safe place under lock and key. If information is not needed during the school year, it should be stored in a safe place.
- Shred any important documents you plan on throwing away into the trash.
- Update your computer’s anti-virus program and familiarize yourself with the college’s Internet network and Wi-Fi security. Physically secure your laptop or computer with cable locks as well.
- Do not provide too much personal information on social media sites and understand that the sites’ security measures may not be infallible.
- Smart phone applications are also vulnerable to hackers so be careful of what information is stored on the phone.
- Do not use free peer-to-peer file sharing to download music or other files as it opens your computer to intruders who will steal any important information stored on your computer.