If you have a college student packing up to live on or near campus this fall, now’s a good time to talk about preventing fraud while they’re away from home.

“Identity theft can affect penniless students as much or more than their parents,” said Stephanie Garland, regional director of Better Business Bureau (BBB) Springfield. “Sometimes all thieves want is to exploit your clean credit record. By establishing good habits for monitoring and detecting fraud, students can greatly reduce their chance of being a victim of ID theft.”

According to Javelin Strategy and Research, 6.64 percent of consumers became victims of identity fraud in 2017, an increase of almost one million victims from the previous year. The amount stolen from these victims, who numbered 16.7 million this year, was nearly $17 billion.

BBB recommends that college-bound students take the following steps to fight identity theft on campus:

• School mailboxes are not always secure and often can be accessed easily in a dorm or apartment. To combat sticky fingers in the mailroom, have sensitive mail sent to a permanent address, such as a parent’s home or a post office box.

• Important documents should be stored under lock and key. This includes your Social Security card, passport and bank and credit card statements. Shred any paper documents that have sensitive financial information rather than just tossing them out. Also shred any credit card offers that come in the mail.

• Never lend your credit or debit card to anyone, even if they are a friend. Just say no if your friend wants you to cosign for a loan or financing for items like a TV.

• Make sure your computer, laptop or tablet has up-to-date antivirus and anti-spyware software. Always install any updates and patches to your computer’s operating system or browser software, which help keep your computer safe from new schemes or hacks by identity thieves online.

• Always check your credit or debit card statements closely for any suspicious activity. The sooner you identify any potential fraud, the less you’ll suffer in the long run. Getting your statements online is more secure, but make sure you actually look at the statements.

• When shopping on unfamiliar websites, always check the company out first with BBB at bbb.org. Look for a website with the padlock on the page and “https” in the URL web address box. Also, look for trustmarks on websites like BBB’s seal.

• Check your credit report at least once a year with all three reporting bureaus for any suspicious activity or inaccuracies. You can do this for free by visiting www.annualcreditreport.com.

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