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College is a time for discovering one's a path toward a successful future. It's also a time for students to learn how to protect their identity.

While many of today's students are tech savvy, they're still major targets for identity thieves. According to report from Javelin Strategy and Research, more than 22 percent of college students learned they were victims of identity theft after being denied credit. That's approximately three times higher than the national average.
The report also revealed that while students are targeted the most, they are the least concerned, with 64 percent saying they were not very worried about being victimized by fraud when surveyed.
Since college can be a financially challenging time, steering clear of identity theft is key. Here are some fundamental ways college students can protect their identities (and their funds) while in college.

Don't underestimate the danger of oversharing:
Sharing thoughts, pictures and activities on social media is commonplace in today's culture. But posting too much personal information sets students up for possible fraud, because it can be used to guess passwords or answer security questions.
Continuously checking in at routine locations could be a problem, too. If students always "check-in" to their classes or the gym, would-be thieves could learn their habits, so they know when to break into dorm rooms to access personal information.
It's also recommended that students avoid sharing too much with new friends even when face-to-face. According to Javelin Research, students were four times more likely to be taken advantage of by someone they knew. This kind of information gathering is a version of social engineering, where victims are manipulated into divulging confidential information like PINs, personal data and more.

Be wise with personal data:
Social security numbers, mother's maiden name, date of birth, account numbers and home address can all be used to access a person's financial accounts or open new ones, so it's imperative that these details stay as secure as possible.

While guarding personal data may seem like a no-brainer, many may not know all of the ways their data could be compromised. Here are some simple steps students can take to protect their information:
-Shred credit card offers and all mail containing personal information.
-Check for card skimmers at the gas pump.
-Leave social security cards and birth certificates in a secure place.
-Ensure laptops and mobile devices are locked when they’re not in use.
-Avoid accessing and entering private information on public computers and Wi-Fi.
-Keep PINs and passwords private and cover the PIN pad when entering numbers at the ATM or payment terminal.
-Avoid loaning debit or credit cards to friends.
-Select strong passwords that can’t be guessed.
-Refuse to give personal information or payment to unsolicited callers or emailers.
-Use caution when making online purchases and only buy from trusted sellers.
-Consider purchasing identity theft protection.
Act fast if identity theft is suspected
The longer someone has unfettered access to a student’s information, the more damage can be done. Therefore, time is of the essence when identity theft strikes. The first step in dealing with a potential threat, is trying not to panic so a plan can be put in place. Then the student should contact their local authorities (campus, municipal or county police) to report the crime, and notify their financial institution.

The incident should then be reported to all three credit bureaus, so a fraud alert can be issued. A fraud alert will notify lenders that additional identification is required for credit approval, it will also give the victim access to one free credit report from all three bureaus.

Lastly, the student should change passwords, choose a new PIN, request new debit and credit cards, and continue to monitor their credit report for suspicious activity.

Want more information identity protection strategies? Visit fairwinds.org or visit your nearest FAIRWINDS branch.