Identity Theft at University, Is This a Thing?

The short answer is an emphatic “yes!”. Beginning with the basics, identity theft is the use of your personal data to conduct financial transactions or commit crimes. This could range from using your data to access your accounts, to applying for loans or credit cards in your name, or to defrauding others. University students are at a much higher risk of identity theft compared to adults in general due to their unique situation.

What makes university student vulnerable to identity theft?

1. Lack of private space – Much of your student life will be conducted in shared spaces, be it a dorm room, other shared housing, student lounge, or even the library. Keeping documents, bank statements, or other items containing personal information secure is more difficult in these types of environments and will require care and good habits.

2. Public Wi-Fi networks – as you travel between shared physical spaces, you will likely also be moving between various Wi-Fi networks with varying levels of security. These networks can be used to gain access to both your devices and your information.

3. Phishing – this is a time in your life where you may be applying for financial aid from multiple sources. Be wary of phishing attempts which seek to link you to fake applications/institutions in order to gain your sensitive data.

4. Oversharing on social media – while social media is a fact of life, there is always a risk that the information you share can be used to hack your passwords. Revealing your pet’s name, place of birth, birthday, or other personal information can lead to your accounts being compromised, especially if you use them for….

5. Weak Passwords – this is not unique to just university students, but weak passwords, or using the same password across multiple sites is asking for trouble. Avoid using items such as your pet’s name, favourite sports team, or nickname in your passwords. Here is an informative comic on password strength

Other things you can do to protect yourself are:

  • CSign up for transaction alerts with your banks/credit cards
  • Never make payments over public Wi-fi
  • Use strong passwords
  • Read your financial statements regularly looking out for unusual activity

Even with taking precautions your identity may be stolen. If this happens you should immediately:

  • Contact the police
  • Contact your financial institution
  • Contact credit reporting agencies such as Equifax and TransUnion
  • Notify the University
  • If needed, cancel the compromised debit/credit cards

All the contact numbers for the above organisations should be kept in an easily accessible place – not just on your phone

Copyright Ⓒ Juvenis Maxime 2023

Author: Kenneth Knox