ESCANABA - While juggling school, work and an active social life it doesn't often occur to college students that they need to take steps to avoid identity theft. In a 2010 survey, Javelin Strategy and Research found that young adults, aged 18-24, took the longest to detect identity theft - 132 days on average - when compared to other age groups.
College-bound students should take the following seven steps to fight identity theft:
1. School mailboxes are not always secure and can often be easily accessed in a dorm or apartment. Students should have sensitive mail sent to a permanent address such as their parents' home or a post office box.
2. Important documents should be stored under lock and key - such as in a filing cabinet.
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 remember to shred any credit card offers that come in the mail.
3. Never loan your credit or debit card to anyone, even if they are a friend. Also, just say no if your friend wants you to cosign for a loan or financing for items like a TV.
4. Make sure your computer has up-to-date antivirus and spyware software. Always install any updates and patches to your computer's operating system or browser software which help keep your computer safe from any new advances by on-line identity thieves.
5. 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.
6. When shopping on unfamiliar websites, always check the company out first. Click on their trust seals to confirm they are legitimate.
7. 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 the website www.annualcreditreport.com.
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Gary Ballweg is sheriff of Delta County