It's that time of year again – students are headed off to college, many of them for the first time. They will experience a college class for the first time. They will live in a dorm for the first time. They'll meet new people, and go new places. But what you don't want them to experience is identity theft.
College students are often targeted by identity thieves, so it's important to make sure that before you pack your son or daughter up to go off to campus, you discuss what to do to prevent identity theft.
Your child will be hit with lots of pre-approved credit card offers. In addition to explaining to your child why he shouldn't open multiple credit card accounts, explain that he should shred these offers before throwing them away.
Explain to your child that he should never leave his laptop unattended, and that he should always sign off of any site he's using before shutting down. Make sure he knows the importance of using good passwords, and changing them often.
You child should check his bank account on a regular basis, but he should also check his bank and credit card statements, to be sure there's no monkey business going on. If you can catch fraudulent activity in the early stages, much less damage will be done – if any.
Encourage your child to get his credit report annually. All consumers are entitled to one free copy of their credit report each year, and your child should take advantage of this. Review the report together, being careful to look for any errors or fraudulent entries.
If your child has become an identity theft victim, contact his bank and credit card companies immediately, as well as campus security. You should also help him contact the three credit bureaus, and place a fraud alert on his credit report, so no more accounts can be opened. The alert lasts for 90 days.
You should also report the theft to the Federal Trade Commission by calling 1-877-IDTHEFT.
By taking these steps, your child will likely only have two things to worry about this semester – finals and which fraternity or sorority to pledge.