Q: My daughter will be a freshman in college this coming semester, and plans to bring a number of electronics (that are not cheap) with her to school. I have heard stories where thefts happen at school. Does the BBB have advice on the best way keep her property and personal information safe?
A: As students return to school, the Better Business Bureau reminds parents to talk to them about different ways to keep their cellphones, iPads, iPods, laptops and other electronic devices safe. College campuses, cafeterias, local hangouts and even classrooms can be an easy target for those looking to steal expensive electronic devices. Not only can thieves steal your personal property, they could also gain access to sensitive information such as emails, text messages, calendars, photos and even social media network logins.
Javelin Strategy & Research reported in its 2014 Identity Fraud Report that last year 13.1 million people became victims of identity theft. Today, technology and electronics should be treated like a pile of cash. It is a significant financial investment that should be protected at all times. Remember that all electronic tools are a path to identity theft if not protected.
BBB offers this advice to keep personal property and sensitive information safe:
1) Use password protections. Even if a thief steals your electronic device, having password protections could limit his access to your personal information. Avoid sharing passwords with friends or carrying them around on paper.
2) Keep it off the floor. No matter where you are in public -- a large study hall in school, a conference, a coffee shop, or a registration desk -- avoid putting your electronics on the floor. If you must put it down, place it between your feet or at least up against your leg, so you are aware of its presence.
3) Leave it at home. In some cases, school districts may have strict policies about students bringing electronic devices to campus. Be sure to find out what is allowed while on campus and in the classroom. Also, determine if you really need your electronics during school hours or if they can wait until you get home.
4) Get it out of the car. Do not leave electronics in the car -- not on the seat, not in the trunk. Parked cars are a favorite target of thieves; do not help them by leaving your property unattended.
5) Do not leave it "for just a minute." Your classmates seem trustworthy, so you are comfortable leaving your electronics on the table while you go outside for a break. The people at the coffee shop seem nice, so you ask them to keep an eye out while you use the restroom. Do not leave your laptop, iPad or other electronics unguarded -- not even for a minute.
6) Be sure to always lock your dorm room/apartment behind you, even if you are going down the hall for a second to get a drink. Your room holds a lot of valuable items and information; do not make it easy for someone to slip in and out quickly, taking your items.
7) Use bells and whistles. Depending on your security needs, an alarm can be a useful tool. Some laptop alarms sound when there is an unexpected motion, or when the computer moves outside a specified range around you. Also, consider a "Lojack" for your laptop: a program that reports the location of your stolen laptop once it is connected to the Internet.
Jim Winsett is president of the Better Business Bureau in Chattanooga.