college student looking at book

College Student Identity Theft and Fraud

Identity thieves love to prey on vulnerable people and, as crazy as it sounds, college students are high up on their list. According to Javelin Research, college students are four times more likely to become a victim of identity theft1.

Through the stress of being in a whole new world, it is easy for college students to let their guard down. And one of the last threats a college student would think of is identity theft. What would these fraudsters want anyway? A bank account with $23 and a value pack of Ramen?

Unfortunately, cybercriminals see a bigger opportunity with a college student’s personal information. Let’s take a look at some of the ways cybercriminals use to target college students.

Student Loan Fraud:

Fraudsters have ways that they can dig their claws in before students even step foot on campus. Student loan fraud occurs when criminals steal and use a student’s information or manipulate a student into making them believe they need to pay money to apply for student loans.

It is important to know that government student loans or financial aid will never require a payment to apply. Many fraudsters will ask for you to pay a fee so that they can file a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)2

Be aware of commercial financial aid advice service scams and what they look like. A company who reaches out saying they have aid to offer and the way to hold it is by giving out personal information? Scam. Guaranteed aid? That’s a guaranteed scam.

There are legitimate companies that the U.S. Department of Education works with. Read the full list here3.

Scholarship fraud:

Fraudsters know that students going into college will be looking for scholarships. Scholarships require a lot of personal information when applying. Be careful when giving up these details, and always be sure to do research about the organizations when applying for scholarships.

  • Avoid scholarships that say they are guaranteed or your money back4.
  • Application fees should always raise red flags.
  • Unsolicited scholarship offers from organizations should always raise caution.

There’s a lot of information out there from regulated government websites to help avoid scams and fraud, do your research and take advantage of it as much as possible.

Mailroom and Credit Card Fraud:

College campus mailrooms and mailboxes are not secure enough for personal information. Sensitive and personal information should always be sent to a trusted home address or personal P.O. Box not on campus5. If credit card companies start sending you material with any of your personal information on it, make sure to not only throw it away, but shred it as well to ensure it won’t be found and used to open up accounts in your name.

Public WiFi and Technology:

Having access to technology such as laptops or computers in the library is an amazing resource to have, yet it can be dangerous. Logging into personal accounts on these public computers or using school provided WiFi are easy access points for identity thieves to attack. College students should exercise extreme caution when using shared devices and always log out of personal accounts after using these devices. Students should also be mindful of what they print off on public printers, as this information can be stolen and used by cyber-crooks.

Personal Information on File on Campus:

We would all like to think that a student’s sensitive information is in good hands with their college or university, but think again. Students are easy targets of cybercrime as many schools fail to properly secure private and personal data.

It’s important for college students to monitor their personal accounts so if suspicious activity occurs, they can take immediate action.

Extra Steps College Students can take to secure their identities and pertinent information:

  • Be educated on the risks and know what steps to take if this crime does occur.
  • Make sure passwords are all up to date as well as software and firewalls to be protected from hackers.
  • Look at account statements. It is extremely important to stay up to date and aware of all activity on personal credit cards and bank accounts in order to catch unusual activity before it is too late.
  • Never give out personal information over the phone or internet unless you initiated contact6.
  • What to do if you do become a victim of identity theft?
  • Report the crime to the police to ensure others are not taken advantage either.
  • Freeze accounts and freeze credit. Putting a freeze on your accounts can mitigate the continued use of your personal information and accounts.
  • Protect yourself with identity theft protection services. Services such as IDSeal can help safeguard your identity so that this may not happen and can be resolved quickly and efficiently if need be.
  • Review credit reports. Reviewing credit reports and account statements can help spot red flags and unusual activity before too much damage occurs.

Starting fresh as an adult sounds wonderful doesn’t it? But if you’re not careful with your information, you may not have the fresh start you have been looking forward to. Investing in your own future and identity safety can benefit you in the long run. Signing up for IDSeal will make your life much easier with identity theft protection, dark-web monitoring, bank and credit account monitoring, and a 24/7 U.S.-Based Customer Service chat that is there to help you at all hours.

Sources:
1. https://nuvisionfederal.com/blog/memberresources/2018/08/27/students-increasingly-victims-of-fraud-and-identity-theft
2. https://www.fraud.org/back_to_school_scams
3. https://studentaid.gov/manage-loans/repayment/servicers
4. https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0082-scholarship-and-financial-aid-scams
5. https://sopa.tulane.edu/blog/student-loan-identity-theft
6. https://studentaid.gov/resources/scams