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BBB Tip of the Week: Identity theft

Sun., Sept. 15, 2013, midnight

Many college students start the fall term anticipating a productive year of learning and growth. What many may not realize is that they are prime targets for identity theft.

College students are bombarded with credit card offers. Some may just toss this mail into the trash, but criminals target trashcans in neighborhoods around campuses, looking for intact offers. When found, identity thieves will fill out the application and change the address to assume the identity. Before recycling or throwing these offers away, everyone should shred them or tear them up.

At some point, on campuses across the nation, students will receive freebies in return for filling out an information card. Can you trust the people collecting your personal information? The short answer is no.

Laptops are vulnerable to identity theft. Many of us save passwords to bank accounts, store credit card information and other personal details on them. Laptop theft is a common crime on campus. Use strong passwords and change them often. Consider investing in a laptop security lock.

Wi-Fi hotspots and public computers are convenient but leave students vulnerable. They are heavily trafficked and unsecure. Never enter sensitive data while using public Internet access. Always log out of websites and computers. Disable auto-complete, and erase cookies and browsing history.

The BBB offers the following additional tips for college students:

• Receive all sensitive mail at your home address or at a U.S. postal mailbox. Dorms and student apartments tend to be less secure.

• Check your bank and credit card accounts often for suspicious activity. Balance your checkbook monthly, and check your free credit report yearly.

• Be cautious when co-signing a loan or lease agreement with a friend.

For more tips you can trust, visit the BBB at For more information on protecting your identity, visit the FTC’s Consumer Information website at

Erin T. Dodge, BBB Editor

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