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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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BBB Tip of the Week:

By Tyler Russell BBB Northwest and Pacific

College students are heading back to school and face a variety of challenges – from distance learning to finding school supplies to coping with new health and safety measures.

If you are a new or returning college student, you are also susceptible to identity theft. Establish good habits for monitoring and detecting fraud by being proactive about keeping your identity safe. Once you learn to monitor your online identity and keep track of important documents, you can lay a path for healthy financial practices for the rest of your life.

Between September and August, Better Business Bureau’s Scamtracker found that online purchases, phishing scams and identity theft accounted for 18,028 reports. The total loss was more than $5 million dollars and the average lost per victim was nearly $400 in these costly cons. Fraudsters typically use the phone as their primary contact method to con victims out of payments via credit card.

As college students have so much going on, BBB offers tips to share with your kids as they head into the next chapter in their lives.

Better Business Bureau Northwest and Pacific urges students to practice the following habits to stay safe this school year:

Send sensitive mail to your permanent home or a post office box. School mailboxes are not always secure and often can be accessed easily in a dorm or apartment.

Important documents should be stored safely. This includes your U.S. Social Security card, passport and bank and credit card statements. Shred credit card offers and any paper documents that have sensitive financial information, rather than just tossing them out.

Never lend your credit or debit card to anyone. Just say no if your friend wants to borrow your card or asks you to co-sign for a loan or financing for items like a TV. When using an ATM or credit card machine, don’t let anyone ‘shoulder surf’ your personal identification number, or PIN.

Guard your passwords and don’t give them out to anyone. Use strong passwords and don’t use the same password for all sites.

Watch for phishing. Be vigilant and be careful when clicking on links in emails and texts; verify the content with the website. More on phishing scams can be found at bbb.org/scams.

Make sure your computer has up-to-date antivirus and spyware software. Always install any updates and patches to your computer’s operating system or browser software, which help keep your computer safe from any new advances by identity thieves online.

Always check your credit or debit card statements closely for any suspicious activity. The sooner you identify any potential fraud, the less you’ll suffer in the long run.

Be careful when shopping online. Check out businesses on bbb.org. Look for the BBB Accredited Business seal; click on the seals to confirm that they are legitimate.

Check your credit report at least once a year. You are entitled to one free report a year from each of the three reporting bureaus: TransUnion, Experian and Equifax. Look for any suspicious activity or inaccuracies. You can do this for free by visiting www.annualcreditreport.com.

To find out more about businesses you can trust head to www.bbb.org. More information about keeping your business safe during these trying times is available at www.trust.bbb.org.

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