When I get bored, I start asking unusual questions, like "how do you get your identity stolen?" "How do you even protect yourself from something like that?" So, I decided to do what any rational person in my situation would do: I Google'd it.
The smallest piece of information can open you up to the possibility of identity theft. A common activity amongst identity thieves is 'dumpster diving.' Thieves search through your trash, and look through mail that could contain that bit of information they need, like a bank account or credit card statement, medical information, or any kind of bill.
Another method is called 'skimming,' where the theft takes your credit card, swipes it through a special storage device, and pulls all your information off of your card to store it. Then, they transfer that information into another card with a magnetic strip (like a hotel key card) and then they purchase items with that mock credit card.
Then there’s 'phishing,' where someone pretends to be from some sort of financial company and send spam, hoping to coax your personal information out from you. Most college students know this is a gimmick and delete the message, but this kind of identity theft is still rampant in the ranks of neophyte internet users.
It’s just as easy as stealing your stuff. Someone steals your wallet and uses your credit card. Keeping your social security card in your wallet gives them even more access to your personal accounts; they could even set up another account in your name using your social security number.
They might use false pretenses in order to get your information out of someone who would know it. This happened to me. My mom received a call, claiming to be from the school, requesting information that they should have already had. Naturally, she hung up. I’ve heard other stories like this claiming that they're from the person’s credit card company and they’re updating information. If this happens to you, ask that they repeat your information to you and you’ll tell them whether anything has changed.
So just be smart.
Shred any mail that could contain information identity thieves could steal and use, memorize your social security, and delete spam emails and questions asking for your personal information.
Occasionally check your credit if you have your own credit card and make sure nothing weird is going on. If anything seems unusual, check with your bank. Catch identity thieves before they can crash your credit.
Us students already have too many financial-related worries; let’s keep another one off of our plates.