Sending your child off to college for the first time is incredibly exciting! All of the hard work you put into telling them to do their homework and filling out those applications has finally paid off.  However, while this is a time of joy and pride, it can be a scary time as well.

Your little one is going off on their own, perhaps for the first time in their entire life, and you will not be there to protect them.  While we cannot help you with all of the safety warnings you will need to relay to your young adult, we can help you with some great tips to help them avoid becoming a victim of identity theft. Here are three  key things to tell your college freshman to help them steer clear of identity theft:

  1. Your Social Security number is VERY important: Most young people do not know that their entire identity is linked to their Social Security number (SSN).  They don’t realize that not only is their ability to get credit connected to this number, but their criminal and medical records are tied to this little gold nugget as well.  You need to explain to them just how important this number is and help them understand why they need to keep it safe.  Explaining to them that an SSN can be used by somebody with a different name, age or sex will help drive home the point that they need to keep it protected from EVERYONE.
  2. Your computer is YOUR computer: While we understand that sharing is caring, it is not a good idea for everyone in your dorm to have access to the information on your computer.  Passing your computer around for everyone to update their Facebook isn’t just a risk for identity theft, it is a matter of privacy as well.  Our computers contain every aspect of our lives today and, unless you are peeking over the shoulder of everyone using your computer while they use it, you have no idea what information they may be accessing.  Even if the person is a trusted friend, you don’t want someone to download music or click on a link that could infect your computer with malware, which could lead to identity theft.
  3. It is necessary to properly dispose of sensitive documents: While most schools have moved from using a Social Security number as a student ID, there are bound to be documents moving through the hands of a college student that contain personal information.  Financial aid forms, scholarship applications and tuition bills are just a few of the school related documents that may have an SSN on them, as well as other personal identifying information.  Students may also be receiving credit card statements or other financial documents. In addition, just because a student ID isn’t an SSN doesn’t mean that someone cannot use it to check out library items and not return them, or get into other school accounts. All documents containing ANY type of sensitive information need to be shredded and they should never be left in the open where someone could come across them.

So while it may be more fun to pick out matching décor for your freshman’s dorm room, don’t forget that shredder, computer security software and perhaps a mini-safe.  These may not make them the coolest kids on campus, but it will make them the most protected against identity theft.

If you found this information helpful, you may want to consider taking part in the Identity Theft Resource Center’s Anyone3 fundraising campaign.  For more information or to donate please visit http://www.idtheftcenter.org/itrc-launches-anyone3-campaign.