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Keep identities safe when heading to college

By MELINDA WILLIAMS

melinda@southwesttimes.com

With college students accounting for almost a quarter of reported identity theft victims, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) urges parents to teach college-bound children how to protect their identities now — before they leave home.

“College can be the first real taste of independent living for young men and women. Because they are targeted so often by scammers, it is vital to teach them how to secure their identities before they move into the dorm.” said Julie Wheeler, president and CEO of BBB Serving Western Virginia.

According to the Federal Trade Commission, 20 percent of identity theft victims are 20 to 29 years old. A 2010 survey by Javelin Strategy and Research determined 18- to 24-year-olds take almost twice as long to realize they have fallen victim to identity theft.

Failure to monitor accounts or take advantage of account monitoring programs was a major factor for the delay in detecting fraudulent activity.

BBB offers the following tips to help students keep their identities secure:

•Lock up important information such as social security cards, bank statements, passports and other forms of identification. Have sensitive mail sent to a post office box or a parent’s address and shred sensitive financial information and credit card offers instead of just throwing them away.

•Never share credit or debit card numbers and pin numbers with friends. Politely decline requests to act as a co-signer on loans or large purchases.

•Keep antivirus and spyware software up-to-date on computers. Use separate logins and passwords on shared computers.

•Check all credit card statements closely for suspicious activity. Review credit reports at least annually. Credit reports are available free of charge at www.annualcreditreport.com.

•Check out unfamiliar websites at www.bbb.org before doing business with them.

For more information, contact BBB at 540-342-3455 or 800-533-5501.

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