Better Business Bureau: Back-to-school lesson – How students can avoid identity theft

CONTACT: Lisa Schiller, Media Relations

PHONE: 414- 847- 6055

FAX: 414-302- 0355

E-MAIL: [email protected]

Milwaukee, Wis. – College students have enough to worry about without falling prey to scammers looking to steal their identities and good credit. Unfortunately, college students are tempting targets for identity thieves because they may not take enough precautions and their credit reports are often clean.

“Identity thieves don’t care if you’re a struggling student and don’t have a penny to your name; sometimes all they want is to exploit your clean credit record,” says Ran Hoth, president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau Serving Wisconsin. “Young adults that establish good habits for monitoring and detecting fraud are laying a path that will help create a healthy financial road for the rest of their lives.”

The BBB has some tips to keep your identity safe:

Don’t share too much on social media. Check your social network privacy settings to ensure you’re not exposing too much personal information and make sure you have proper security settings on your smartphone.

Keep important documents safe. Keep things like your Social Security card and passport in a safe place, such as a locked filing cabinet or your parents’ house. Have sensitive mail sent to a permanent address, such as your parents’ house or a post office box. School mailboxes are not always secure and often can be accessed easily in a dorm or an apartment.

Never lend your credit or debit card to anyone. And don’t agree to co-sign for a loan or finance items. Not even for friends.

Always check your credit or debit statements. Check thoroughly for any purchases or cash withdrawals you don’t recognize.

Shred paper documents. Instead of throwing them in the trash, shred documents containing your personal or financial information such as old contracts, credit card statements and junk mail, including all those credit card offers. Take yourself off marketing lists for pre-approved credit cards at optoutprescreen.com .

Check your credit report once a year for any errors. Get a free copy of your credit report every 12 months from each credit reporting company at annualcreditreport.com .

Make sure your computer has up-to-date antivirus and spyware software. Install reputable antivirus software and a firewall and keep it enabled and updated.

Check companies out before buying online. According to the National Retail Federation, 31% of college shoppers plan to buy products with their smartphones and 35% plan to use their tablets, the highest in NRF’s survey history. Make sure you’re buying from websites that have the lock symbol. Click on the seals to make sure they are legitimate. Check a company’s BBB report before doing business. For thousands of free BBB Business Reviews and charity reports, go to BBB.org .

For more information or further inquiries, contact the Wisconsin BBB at http://www.bbb.org/wisconsin or 414-847-6000 (metro Milwaukee), 920-734-4352 (Appleton), 608-268-2221 (Madison) or 1-800-273-1002 (elsewhere in Wisconsin). Consumers also can find more information about how to protect themselves from scams by following the Wisconsin BBB on Twitter, Facebook and You Tube.

ABOUT BBB: For more than 100 years, Better Business Bureau has been helping people find businesses, brands and charities they can trust. In 2014, people turned to BBB more than 165 million times for BBB Business Reviews on more than 4.7 million businesses and Charity Reports on 11,000 charities, all available for free at bbb.org . The Council of Better Business Bureaus is the umbrella organization for 112 local, independent BBBs across North America, as well as home to its national programs on dispute resolution, advertising review, and industry self-regulation. BBB Serving Wisconsin was founded in 1939 and serves the state of Wisconsin.