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BBB Urging Students to Prevent Identity Theft

CHICAGO, IL – September 4, 2013 – College students need to carefully protect their personal information states the Better Business Bureau (BBB), because they are the most at-risk group for identity theft according to recent surveys and information from the Federal Trade Commission.

People at the highest risk were those who have public social media profiles and smartphone users who don’t have a password on their phones. College students fit that demographic perfectly because they fall in an age range which uses both social media and smartphones heavily. In 2011, 11.6 million adults became victims of identity theft, a 13 percent increase from 2010, according to the 2012 Identity Fraud Survey conducted by Javelin Strategy & Research.

“On college campuses, ‘friendly fraud’ accounts for more than 20 percent of all identity theft crimes,” said Steve J. Bernas, president & CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving Chicago and Northern Illinois. “Friends, roommates and classmates are all potential scammers.

Bernas explained that too often people think of scammers only as foreign-based scam artists phishing on the Internet, but this isn’t always the case. Since college acquaintances are often trusted by most college students, it can make it easier for these people to steal important information through paperwork or social networking websites.

“Most college students are so busy that when they realize they have been a victim of a scam, it is too late to do anything,” said Bernas. “College students need to take action early to avoid scams by being careful where they store personal documents and by being cautious about their Internet use.”

The BBB recommends that college students take the following five steps to fight identity theft on campus:

  • Send sensitive mail to your parents’ home or a post office box. School mailboxes are not always secure and can often be accessed easily in a dorm or apartment.
  • Important documents should be stored under lock and key. This includes your Social Security card, passport, bank and credit card statements. Shred credit card offers and any paper documents that have sensitive financial information rather than just tossing them out.
  • Never lend your credit or debit card to anyone. It is important to always keep your debit and credit cards in your possession.
  • 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 identity thieves online.
  • 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.

For more tips and information about scams, visit www.bbb.org

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As a private, non-profit organization, the purpose of the Better Business Bureau is to promote an ethical marketplace. BBBs help resolve buyer/seller complaints by means of conciliation, mediation and arbitration. BBBs also review advertising claims, online business practices and charitable organizations. BBBs develop and issue reports on businesses and nonprofit organizations and encourage people to check out a company or charity before making a purchase or donation.

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