Tag Archives | fraud

How Can Students Protect Themselves Against Online Fraud?

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Cybercrime is on the increase, and we are all at risk. It is easy to assume that cyber criminals target the wealthy or the elderly, but statistics show that the most common targets are those on lower incomes and individuals who spend more time online. In other words, today’s American students are right at the top of the risk profile.

The effects of cybercrime are not restricted to financial loss, as serious as it is. Even if the fraudulent transactions are relatively minor, the consequences can have repercussions that run on for years, with an impact on your credit score that can affect your ability to get a loan or mortgage when you have completed your studies. Here are five tips relating to cybercrime that every student needs to know:

1) Heed the warnings

If you get a warning that your information has been breached, take it seriously. Research shows that one in five people who receive such warnings become fraud victims, compared to one in 20 of those who do not. This doesn’t mean clicking on links in emails; if you receive something suspicious, call your bank and ask if it’s a real threat.

2) Watch your accounts

The most popular way for fraudsters to get your details is by changing your address or adding another registered user to your account. Keep an eye on your account settings and look out for anything unusual.

3) Lack of money doesn’t mean you’re safe

Lower-income victims are actually hit harder than the wealthy. The average fraud victim is hit for $345. Among those on lower incomes, the average amount is $895. This actually means that students face a higher risk factor than wealthy workers.

4) Fraudsters love Facebook

With more than three quarters of Americans on social media, it should come as no surprise that these platforms provide rich pickings for criminals, too. Think about what information you share on your social media account. Where you grew up? The name of your pet? Your favorite high school teacher? Great, now anyone can answer your security questions for online banking.

5) Guard your bank account

Speaking of online banking, this is the most common type of non-card fraud. Watch your account closely and check the individual transactions. Fraudsters commonly go for multiple small amounts rather than one big hit, gradually bleeding their victims over time.

Vigilance is key

Online fraud is big business, but it is relatively easy to protect yourself by using common sense and vigilance. The greatest mistake is to think it won’t happen to you – it is exactly that attitude that the fraudsters depend on to make you a victim.

This article was contributed by Sally Writes.

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How College Students Can Prevent Identity Theft

Image by succo, pixabay.com

Image by succo, pixabay.com

Millennials are widely recognized as the most tech-savvy generation. The generation who grew up at the dawn of the digital age and can hardly recall a time before the internet. However, studies suggest that, for all their tech fluency, millennials are shockingly susceptible to identity theft.

A study by Javelin Strategy & Research found that in 2014, 22 percent of students found themselves the victims of identity fraud, a rate three times higher than the overall national average.

This leads us to an obvious question: what behaviors are college students engaging in which lead to such astronomical rates of identity theft?

What is Identity Theft?

The United States Department of Justice defines identity theft as the following:

Identity theft and identity fraud are terms used to refer to all types of crime in which someone wrongfully obtains and uses another person’s personal data in some way that involves fraud or deception, typically for economic gain.

With such a broad, generic definition, it is sometimes hard to discern identity theft attempts. It doesn’t help that ID theft tactics have changed significantly throughout history.

identity theft infographic

As new technologies are developed, new identity theft tactics are sure to emerge. It is essential for everyone, including college students, to remain vigilant.

How Does Identity Theft Affect You?

Some students might not believe that identity theft is such a major concern, and that misconception is a big part of the problem. Identity theft can quickly turn your financial situation, as well as your life in general, into a nightmare.

First and foremost, these people can steal from you. If an identity thief gains access to your bank account, they can easily drain your funds. In addition, they may have access to any savings accounts you have tucked away as well.

Besides this, becoming the victim of identity theft can be disastrous for your credit. As a college student, you are probably just starting to develop credit. However, becoming the victim of identity theft early on can put you into a hole right from the beginning. A bad credit score as a result of identity theft can affect your ability to:

  • Open a credit card
  • Take out student loans
  • Buy a car
  • Rent a house or apartment
  • Get the job you want after graduation

That’s right – some employers check job candidates’ credit scores before hiring, so having a bad credit score may ultimately stand between you and your dream job.

Ways to Prevent Identity Theft

So what can you do to protect yourself? Try adopting these responsible behaviors:

  • Beware of Oversharing: Take advantage of privacy settings on social media, and don’t follow any links unless you know the person who posted them. Keep personal information like your birthdate and address off of the internet.
  • Limit Public Wi-Fi Use: A public Wi-Fi network is vulnerable to identity thieves. Never do anything sensitive like shop or check your bank account on an open connection. It’s better to spend a little bit of data than leave yourself vulnerable to attack.
  • Don’t Bother with Credit Card Offers: Those booths offering a free t-shirt if you fill out a credit card application are common sights on college campuses. Do not give your personal information to anyone, even to seemingly reputable individuals. If you need to fill out a credit application, do it online using a secure connection.
  • Lock Up Your Personal Information: Don’t keep documents such as your social security card or other highly sensitive information in your wallet. Get a good quality, easily-concealed lockbox to store your private documents. Also, don’t just leave the lockbox sitting out on the coffee table – hide it, and don’t let your roommates know where it is.
  • Shred Sensitive Material: Documents such as bank statements, bills and credit card offers should be shredded, not simply thrown in the trash. Investing in a $20 paper shredder is a much cheaper and easier option in the long run.
  • Keep an Eye On Your Bank Account: It’s not always the most pleasant sight, but you need to check your bank account regularly. If you detect any unfamiliar activity, contact your bank right away.
  • Cash is King: Avoid carrying around a debit card or checkbook. Instead, try to pay for everything with either cash or a credit card. It’s much easier to correct fraudulent activity with a credit card than with your bank account.
  • Use Unique Passwords: Do not use one password to access all of your social media and financial accounts. Pick out a unique password for every account, and try to avoid writing down any of your passwords.

If you suspect that you might be the victim of identity fraud, contact your bank or credit company immediately. You should also contact all three credit reporting bureaus in order to issue a fraud alert, so that the abuse does not ruin your credit.

Only through due diligence and responsible financial and personal management can you protect yourself from identity theft and credit fraud.

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