If you're heading off to college in Boston - or anywhere for that matter - you're going to be in situations that are a bit different than those you've probably had to deal with. For one thing, you're going to be a pretty tempting target for identity thieves.
And, let's face it, spending your time trying to protect your personal finances probably isn't on your top 10 list of things to do as you head off to school. The Better Business Bureau that serves the Boston area put together a list of seven steps to take so you can avoid becoming a victim, something that would cause you to spend way more of your time trying to get out of a difficult situation.
"Identity thieves are looking to exploit a studentâ€™s clean credit record," said Paula Fleming, vice president of the BBB serving Eastern Massachusetts, Maine, Rhode Island and Vermont. "By establishing good habits for monitoring and detecting fraud, students can practice smart financial habits for the rest of their lives."
One of the problems is that college-aged Americans take longer than any other group to spot identity theft, according to Javelin Strategy and Research. That means thieves have more time to get away with the crime, allowing them to steal more money and create more problems that need to be fixed.
Here are the BBB's recommendations to help step identity theft for those headed to college:
- Do not use your school mailbox to receive financial information. Consider having it sent home or to a post office box.
- Keep important documents, such as a Social Security card and financial statements, locked up, and shred (rather than throw away) financial documents or credit offers.
- Do not lend your credit or debit cards or co-sign loans.
- Keep your computer virus protection up to date.
- Read your credit card and debit card statements to see if you spot anything suspicious - and report it if you do.
- If you're shopping online, be sure the site you're using - if it isn't known to you - is legitimate by doing a little research.
- Take advantage of the free credit report you're entitled to from each of the three credit bureaus every year through the official site annualcreditreport.com.
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About the author
Mitch Lipka is one of America's leading consumer journalists and advocates. He is an expert in product safety, recalls, scams, and helping consumers get out of jams. He is a nationally known consumer columnist and runs TheConsumerChronicle.com. He lives in Worcester. You can find him on Facebook or reach him at ConsumerNews@Aol.com