Tips to Prevent Identity Theft

September 23, 2011

College students are commonly targeted for identity theft. Because they are such common victims of identity theft, Host Merchant Services recommends taking a few simple steps to protect your identity:

– Secure your mail.

Campus mailboxes are often easily accessed in a dorm or apartment. Have sensitive mail sent to a permanent address such as your parents’ home or invest in a secure post office box.

– Don’t share too much on social networks.

Studies have found that identity fraud can be twice as common for people who have been on social networking sites for five years or more. Javelin research found that those people not using privacy settings on their networks were at a higher risk of exposing crucial information to fraudsters. So to protect yourself, take the time to update and adjust your privacy settings for the various social networking media you utilize.

– Important documents should be securely stored.

All important documents you have should be stored somewhere safe. This includes your Social Security card, passport and bank and credit card statements. Shred all paper documents that contain sensitive financial information and any credit card offers that come in the mail.

– Never loan your credit or debit card to anyone.

If you feel the need to pay for a friend’s meal or a tank of gas, go with them instead. Avoid co-signing for a loan or other financing.

– Make sure your computer software is up-to-date.

Many public Wi-Fi systems can be susceptible to hackers, especially those that are not password-protected. Download updates to your antivirus and spyware software on a regular basis to keep your personal documents and information safe. Never use a shared computer workstation to pay bills or shop online.

– Check your credit and debit card statements frequently.

Look for any suspicious activity or purchases. The sooner you identify potential fraud, the sooner any fraudulent charges can be refunded to you.

– Start with trust.

When shopping on unfamiliar websites, always check for the BBB Accredited Business seal and click to confirm it is legitimate. If there’s no seal, check the company’s BBB Business Review at bbb.org.

– Check your credit report at least once a year.

Experian, Equifax and TransUnion each offer a free credit report once a year. Visit www.annualcreditreport.com to request a report and look for any suspicious activity or inaccuracies.

To check the reliability of a company and find trustworthy businesses, visit bbb.org.

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