Identity theft prevention tips for college students

College campuses have traditionally been a magnet for thieves and scammers. Hackers and identity thieves are drawn to students like moths to a porch light. These days, anything you have that connects to the Internet – your computer, smartphone or tablet – is the target of countless cybercriminals.

Here are some helpful tips to help students (and their parents) keep their information safe:

1. Turn on security features. Every mobile device has a number of security features, such as passcodes/PIN numbers, unlock patterns, device lockouts, encryption and etc. The idea is to make sure the information on your device is either inaccessible or unreadable if it gets into the wrong hands. 

2. Don’t use your computer or mobile device on any public WiFi until you’ve done the following:

ν Make sure your computer or device has been fully updated. The more current you keep it, the less likely many forms of malicious code will to be able to infect it. 

ν Make sure you’ve installed a Mobile Security & Antivirus app. Although this will not make your shopping experience safer, in the event your phone or Internet-enabled device gets lost or stolen you can track it down, lock it down or erase it. 

ν Make sure the firewall on your laptop is enabled – both Windows and Mac OS X come with built-in firewall features. Always keep them on for an extra layer of protection, particularly if you use public WiFi hotspots.

3. Shield your credit cards. Credit and debit cards with the embedded RFID chips can be scanned from a few feet away. There are plenty of RFID blockers and blocker wallets on the market but many have proven not to be  effective. A cheap alternative is to keep your credit cards in an Altoids tin. It’s 100 percent effective as long as the top is closed.

4. Don’t use ATM/debit card for purchases. Debit card protections are not as good as credit card protections. 

5. Turn off Bluetooth when you’re not using it. When not properly secured, your Bluetooth can be used to hack into your phone. This should also be practiced with your phone’s Wifi, too.

6. Be cautious when clicking on links in commercial emails. The safest way to not get tricked by these virus-infected forgeries is to not click on anything in the email. Open up your browser and visit the website yourself.

7. Don’t connect your device to unknown, unsecured WiFis. Hackers will set up no-password WiFis to snoop on anyone that connects.

8. Never send credit card information or passwords by email. Most email is sent in plaintext; it can be intercepted and read like a postcard. 

9. Shred everything.  A $50 cross-cut shredder can potentially save you from years of misery that comes with identity theft.

From Surviving the Zombie Apocalypse: Safer Computing Tips for Small Business Managers and Everyday People by Max Nomad.