Normally I never just print a vendor alert in its entirety. But this time it's personal. A few months ago, my daughter, who's away in college, got her wallet stolen. In a panick I called the CEO of Lifelock, an identity theft protection company, and asked him to make sure she didn't get her identity stolen. A few weeks later, copies of her credit report arrived from all three reporting agencies and it appears her identity is intact.
Today the company sent me this report on the FTC's latest report that college-age students are the number one victim group to get taken by identity theft. Below is Lifelock's suggestions to young people on how to protect their identities:
Take some of your graduation money and buy a paper shredder—It’s nowhere near as cool as getting a new iPod, but it could save you thousands of dollars and lots of headaches by keeping your personal information out of the bad guys’ hands.
Place a fraud alert with the major credit bureaus—Fraud alerts mean creditors have to contact you directly and get your approval every time someone tries to open a new credit account in your name. This way, even if the bad guys DO get your information, you can stop them from opening new accounts. You can place those fraud alerts yourself, or you can pay LifeLock a small monthly fee to take care of the fraud alerts for you.
Stop pre-paid credit card offers—Credit card companies love sending these to new graduates because they know you’re going to be spending a lot on furniture, cars, work clothes, etc. Identity thieves can pull these out of your mailbox or trash, and in minutes fill out those applications, change the address to their own address and steal your good name. You can stop those offers yourself, or LifeLock can do it for you, and will pay up to $1 million to help you if you still end up becoming an ID theft victim.
Just because you’ve protected your information, don’t assume everyone else will—You can take all of these steps and thieves can still get your personal information. How? They steal it from businesses, government offices, and even universities. So far in 2006 there have been more than 50 reported security breaches at places like H&R Block, The University of Texas, Ohio University and the Department of Defense.
Check your credit report—The major credit bureaus are required to give you one free credit report a year. If you see something that doesn’t look right, check it out. Checking your credit report won’t prevent bad guys from opening new accounts in your name. That’s why placing fraud alerts is so important—even more important than simply checking your credit report. But they can give you an overview of what’s happening with your credit.