Identity theft heading back to school this fall

If someone has your credit card or bank account info, you’re in for a hassle. But your social security number is where the real identity theft fun begins.

September is an exciting time of the year for college students. But for every new club, new apartment and new study abroad opportunity, there are forms to fill out — forms that include quite a bit of personal information. Combined with a little youthful optimism, it makes fall the prime season for student identity theft.

“College students have a giant bullseye on their back for a lot of reasons,” says  Mike Prusinski of identity theft prevention service LifeLock. “Organizations see them as a huge marketing opportunity, so they’re getting offers for everything. And they’re in situations where personal information and mail aren’t private. There’s a tremendous increase in risk.”

And as far as real-world wake-up calls, identity theft can be a particularly ugly and expensive one, with more red tape than your university’s financial aid office. “College students have this attitude that, ‘Nothing can happen to me; and even if it does, my mom and dad will fix it,’” Prusinski attests. “Well, they can’t — credit bureaus won’t talk to your mom. And if you’re a new college student, you now have a lot to do between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.”

Prusinski’s advice
   
Ask why everyone and anyone needs your info: “One thing college kids never ask is: ‘Why do you need it?’ But it’s no different than when you go to see your doctor. You have every right to ask, ‘Why do you need it, how are you storing it?’”
   
Think beyond your bank account number: “While most people are worried about someone getting ahold of their credit card or debit card, the real problem is when someone has your social security number and date of birth. If someone has your social security number, they can get a job, they can get medical care and they can file your tax returns.”

Follow Monica Weymouth on Twitter @MonicaatMetro.


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