College crime: It’s a new semester, or quarter, depending on what school your college-age student attends. Back when I was a student at the University of Idaho, we had a small problem with theft in our sorority house. Items left in the laundry room would mysteriously disappear — and not just clothes, either. Of course it isn’t a good idea to leave your personal possessions lying around in a public area, but this was our house. We lived there. We thought nothing of setting down a Sony Walkman and running off to check on something — until it disappeared. We also trusted our friends, even though in many cases we hadn’t known them very long. Our housemother eventually called the police, I think, but they never caught the thief or thieves. We learned to be more careful — at a cost.
Prevention: The Better Business Bureau would like to remind your family that college students are prime targets for theft. But it isn’t just electronics, loose change and clothes anymore. College students need to protect themselves against identity theft also. Remind your student to:
• Never click on suspicious links in an email or banner ad.
• Shred credit card applications.
• Lock up financial aid papers, bank statements and other sensitive documents.
• Change electronic passwords frequently.
• Keep the door of your dorm room locked.
• Have sensitive snail mail sent to a permanent address, like your parents’ house or a locked post office box.
• Don’t share too much on social networks and use your privacy settings.
• Never lend friends your credit or debit card. If you feel the need to pay for a meal or tank of gas, go with your friend instead of handing them your card.
• Keep your computer software up to date.
• Start With Trust by looking up unfamiliar companies on www.bbb.org.
Friendly fraud: Remember that young adults are especially susceptible to “friendly fraud” by roommates or acquaintances. Although data hasn’t been released for 2011 yet, more than 250,000 people became victims of identity theft in 2010, according to the Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book. And 24 percent were between ages 20 and 29. Another 8 percent were 19 and younger.
More info or to report scams: Visit the BBB at www.bbb.org. Call (509) 455-4200 or (800) 356-1007.
Holly Doering, BBB editor