Avoid an Identity Crisis: 6 Ways College Students Can Be Money and Identity Smart


Outwitting Identity Thieves from the Start

Welcome to our new blog series, “Outwitting Identity Thieves from the Start.” This series will focus on the lesser-known financial pitfalls faced by those just starting out. I’ll be sharing my personal advice on how to effectively thwart any potential financial threats that these new life experiences may bring.

This week, we’re focusing on shaping money-wise young professionals. We’ll begin by investigating the issues that current and incoming college students might not have on their radar.

Finding Financial Success in College

College is expensive. With the day-to-day expenses, on top of the hefty tuition you have to bear (at least) the next four years, you may feel a bit overwhelmed. There tends to be little wiggle room in terms of tuition, campus housing and your meal plan, so what will really set you apart as a financial success in your college years is how effectively you handle the lesser-known money concerns — including college banking worries, identity theft and fraud and the looming hazards you’ll likely encounter during your upcoming internship and job search.

Six Ways to Combat Financial Threats in College:

1. Pull Your Credit Report Before, During and After Your College Career:
About half of incoming freshman have a credit card; the other half have probably never even checked their credit score — why should you, right? Actually, pulling your credit report early is a vital step in beginning your college experience because it is the best way to detect identity theft.

Identity theft victims will experience difficulties applying for financial aid, taking out loans and securing housing in college. Even after college, these damaging effects can be seen through higher interest rates and complications when applying for jobs (as many positions now request your credit score to ensure you’re fiscally responsible).

This is especially problematic for incoming students, as those under age 18 are 51 times more likely to experience identity theft than their parents. Red flags of identity theft could include receiving pre-approved credit applications or unfamiliar medical bills, experiencing increased auto insurance rates and being contacted by debt collectors.

If you notice any signs of fraud on your credit report, contact the three credit bureaus and your local police department, and file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission.

2. Know Your Worth When Applying for Credit
Unnecessary bank fees are an easily avoided financial threat that many college students unknowingly endure. Banks and credit unions are excited to acquire customers who are young, educated professionals, and have developed numerous programs and benefits catered to their needs. These institutions know that if they secure your loyalty now, you’ll stick with them during future, much larger, financial decisions.

Look for banks that have a good reputation, offer valuable benefits based on your interests (mileage points, rewards when dining out, etc.) have low interest rates and no annual fees. These benefits are harder to come by later in life, so shop around for the financial account that best fits your needs.

3. Start a (Secure) Connection with Your Finances
Download your bank’s mobile app and sign up for text alerts to have complete visibility of your finances. This will help you consistently track your spending and saving — helping you more quickly reach your financial goals. These features will help you effectively monitor your finances.

While convenient, these features do have some risks associated with them…

Never engage in mobile banking over public or unsecured Wi-Fi connections, this could allow hackers to spy on your activities. And while bank-issued mobile apps are held to the highest security standard, third-party apps such as money management or stock portfolio apps that connect to your bank account are not. If they are hacked, which is becoming increasingly common, the attacks will have direct access to your financial accounts. Keep a passcode on your phone and never conduct banking activates on a jail- broken smartphone.

4. Online Shopping Woes
Scam websites are easy to create and far more common than you might imagine. Never give your personal or financial information to an unverified source (through a website or over the phone) and use multiple online reviews to verify a website’s legitimacy.

In addition to checking online reviews, look up the business’ BBB rating and make sure the PCI compliance banner appears on their website to ensure that your online payments will be securely processed. For legal purposes, it is wise to only work with US-based companies if you have any hesitations.

5. Secure Document Storage
It’s mid-summer, which means incoming students probably have their entire dorm room already mapped out in their head. What about plans for where you will be storing your personal and financial documents?

This is one of those unglamorous, but essential, added responsibilities adulthood will bring. Make sure your Social Security number, bank documents, financial aid information, auto and health insurance forms and other sensitive documents are stored in a secure location.

Many dorm rooms are equipped with small safes or lockable desk drawers. If your room does not include such features, consider purchasing a safe deposit box at your bank. You should discuss security measures with your roommate — locking the door, who will be visiting, which of your items is “off-limits.” By getting this security discussion out of the way early on, you can be on the same page and jump right into a happy, secure living situation.

6. Job and Internship Search Scams
What’s the end goal for any college student? Getting a job. Surprisingly, this can be one of the largest financial threats you’ll face.

Job and internship scams are everywhere, and eager new grads make the perfect target for these fraudsters. Be weary of anything that seems guaranteed or too good to be true. You should never give a prospective employer too much personal information before applying. Remember, a legitimate company will never require your financial information during the application or interview process.

Craigslist, and other free job boards, are often hotspots for employment scams. Always review the listing thoroughly, visit their website, and verify that the company exists and is in good standing. Glassdoor is an employment-review site that may help you gain more insights into what other employees think about working for this organization.

With these tips, you’ll be at least one step ahead of your peers in sorting out the confusing world of college finances. For more information on scams and identity theft, please visit FightingIdentityCrimes.com.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of EZShield Inc. alone and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of any other person or entity, including specifically any person or entity affiliated with the distribution or display of this content.

Laura, former VP of Marketing at EZShield, now a Sontiq brand, is a marketing professional with over 20 years of experience leading marketing and...
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