Q: We are concerned about identity theft for our college kids. What advice does BBB have on student security?
A: As parents, you are justified in your concern.
As college students get settled on campus, fighting fraud may not be at the top of their list of priorities. College students are susceptible to identity theft, however, and Better Business Bureau recommends that they take seven simple steps to protect themselves on campus.
In 2010, 8.1 million Americans -- or 3.5 percent of the population -- became victims of identity theft, according to the 2011 Identity Fraud Survey conducted by Javelin Strategy & Research and sponsored by BBB. The average mean cost of identity theft is $631 and the average time to resolve identity fraud is 33 hours -- valuable study time.
"Friendly fraud" accounts for 14 percent of all ID theft crimes.
This means that new roommates and friends have just as much potential of being as sneaky as a foreign-based scam artist phishing on the Internet.
And identity thieves -- friend or foe -- think nothing of Dumpster diving (or rifling through unattended trash cans) for nonshredded paperwork or even taking mail from unlocked mailboxes (or off a desk).
They can cruise social networking sites looking for some personal tidbit that can unlock a wealth of information elsewhere.
Sadly in this day and age, you cannot always trust your peers. It is extremely important for students to be vigilant in monitoring bank and credit card statements to spot unauthorized activity. Good advice for tech savvy college students is to sign up for security alerts on their financial accounts. Have alerts sent to your mobile phone so you will know if any changes have been made to your account.
BBB recommends that college-bound students take the following seven steps to fight identity theft on campus:
Get answers to your questions each Friday from Jim Winsett, president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau Inc., which serves Southeast Tennessee and Northwest Georgia. Submit questions to his attention by writing to Business Editor Dave Flessner, Chattanooga Times Free Press, P.O. Box 1447, Chattanooga, TN, 37401-1447, or by emailing him at dflessner@ timesfreepress.com.