College students vulnerable to ID theft

Consumer Reports offers 101 on protecting personal data

SAN ANTONIO – Between homework and exams, identity theft may be the last thing on college students' minds. But cyber-thieves are a growing threat on campuses, especially since so many students use plastic instead of cash.

Student Nadine Schiefer uses credit and debit cards to buy just about everything, including meals, books and entertainment.  She worries about criminals stealing her identity and racking up  huge bills in her name.

"I know that it has happened to people that I know," she said. "If it's happened to them, why can't it happen to me?"

She knows the obvious precautions like not sharing passwords, credit card numbers and her Social Security  number unless absolutely necessary.  But there are other, less obvious ways that sensitive information can leak out.

"Criminals love public Wi-Fi because it may not be secure, potentially giving those criminals access to your computer," said Consumer Reports Electronics Editor Bree Fowler. "For things like shopping or banking, it's better to use private Wi-Fi you access with a password."

For sensitive transactions including banking and shopping, Fowler suggests using your phone's data connection.

"It's important to keep in mind that college databases have been hacked recently," Fowler said. "Now, while students can't do much about that, they can take steps to limit the damage from data breaches whether on campus or elsewhere."

Change passwords and check bank statements and credit cards for unauthorized charges.

Also, check iwth the credit bureaus, Transunion, Experian and Equifax, for unexplained debt. If anyone has tried to open up credit in your student's name, inform the credit bureau that it was  a fraudulent attempt.

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