Dangers (not Swine Flu) Await Students Going Back to School

stress_studentPhil Banker said he freaked out when he saw his bank account balance after buying a $100 cell phone with his debit card. The receipt showed that $1,919 was missing from his checking account. Banker, then a University of North Texas senior, thinks his debit card information was compromised when he bought a textbook for a radical discount on the internet.

As students head back to school, identity thieves and scammers are also starting a new season to exploit students’ naiveté and their yearning to save money.

10 security tips for students heading back to school:

  1. Campus computers and Wi-Fi hotspots aren’t always secure. Ensure you are using encryption (i.e. anti-key logging software, or password protection) to scramble communications over the network. It is best not to view personal information on open campus networks.
  2. Keep your information secure by changing your passwords frequently. Keep your anti-virus and anti-spyware software up-to-date with the latest releases. And if you’re using your laptop around campus, always take it with you to ensure your hard drive isn’t compromised.
  3. Credit offers abound on college campuses. Walk through a student union and you can stop and smell the free t-shirts, water bottles, and key chains that banks offer college students when they sign up for credit cards. While it’s a great idea to start building credit, read the offers – and the fine print carefully – and understand exactly what you’re signing up for.
  4. Social networking sites are hot spots for most college students. Reveal as little as possible about yourself, especially family name, address, phone numbers, date of birth – identity thieves only need two or three pieces of this information to steal your identity.
  5. Protect and memorize your Social Security number. Don’t carry your SSN card with you, and if your college uses Social Security numbers as student IDs, request they generate a random number instead. Most schools will do this when asked.
  6. Invest in a good cross-cut shredder and properly dispose of all personal and financial materials. Be aware that information you receive contains personal information that, if stolen, could have serious ramifications. Credit card offers you receive in the mail should be shredded. Bank statements, tax documents – and other documents with personal information – should be securely stored until it is appropriate to shred. And never leave this information out in your dorm room or anywhere it could be compromised.
  7. Online shopping is convenient, but be sure the sites you use are secure by looking for “https” in the URL. Check with sites’ privacy policies so you know what they may be doing with your personal information, or if they’ve attached cookies to your computer, enabling them to track        your viewing and usage patterns.
  8. Start the process of routinely reviewing your credit report. Under a new Federal law, you have the right to receive a free copy of your credit report once every 12 months from each of the three nationwide credit reporting companies. To request your free annual report under that law, go to www.annualcreditreport.com.
  9. If you’re using P2P file sharing programs, be sure to configure the files securely so personal information is not accessible to others (i.e. watch which folders you share in your file sharing programs).
  10. Be wary of telemarketing scams. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Never give your personal information to a caller.

SOURCE: Intersections Inc.

Students are also known to often fall for make money online scams. See below for more information on these scams.

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