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Monday, July 27, 2009

Heading Back To School? Protect Your Identity While On Campus

August is right around the corner, which means it’s almost time for thousands of Washington students to head back to campus.

College campuses can be a breeding ground for identity theft. There are so many students, so many public venues, and so many opportunities to steal information. Before you head back to school, review the tips below on how you can protect your identity and personal information while on campus.

  • Protect Your Laptop
    If you are taking a laptop on campus with you, protect it and the information stored on it. Set up a password that only you would know and change it frequently. Include numbers and special characters in your password. Be cautious when allowing others to use your laptop. You don’t want them snooping around your files. Also, make sure you have anti-virus and firewall protections in place. If you have questions about compatibility with the college computer network, check with the computer department on campus.
  • Be Careful When Using Public Computers Or Wi-Fi Networks
    If you’re going to be using the campus computer lab or Wi-Fi network at the local coffee shop, think twice about doing such tasks as online banking and checking email. Identity thieves are notorious for installing key logging software on public computers and networks. Check with your campus computer department for more information on how you can protect yourself when using the public computers and networks.
  • Don't Be A Fool With Your Online Social Profile
    Have a Facebook, Twitter, or Myspace account? Beware of the information you make available for all to see. Some of my friends on Facebook have their phone numbers, addresses, and other information listed. Exert caution.
  • Secure Your Important DocumentationWhen living in dorms or with roommates, it’s crucial to secure your important documentation (transcripts, account statements, etc). Consider purchasing a small safe or getting a safety deposit box at a local bank or credit union for storing documents. Another tip, avoid leaving your wallet, credit cards, and financial statements out for all to see. You don’t want some stranger rummaging through your stuff.
  • Opt Out Of Pre-Screened Credit OffersEliminate those pesky pre-screened credit offers by visiting is the official Web site for consumers to opt-out of pre-screened credit and insurance offers.
  • Shred Don’t Throw Away
    Need to get rid of old account statements or junk mail? Shred don’t toss. Check to see if your campus has shred events or a shredder that you can use. If not, consider investing in a cross-cut shredder. People do jump into trash bins looking for personal information!
  • Monitor Your Account Statements & Credit Report
    Review your bank and credit account statements each month. Check for fraudulent activity or inaccuracies. If you notice an error, contact your bank or creditor immediately.

    You are entitled to 1 free credit report a year from each of the 3 major credit bureaus. Reviewing your credit report for fraudulent activity can help you determine if you’re a victim of identity theft. Request your free credit report at

If You Think You’re A Victim Of Identity Theft

If you think you may be a victim of identity theft, contact your bank and creditors right away. Contact the 3 major credit bureaus and place a fraud alert on your credit report.

The Washington State Office of the Attorney General has more information about what you should do if you are victim of identity theft.