With the fall semester in full swing, the Tennessee Department of Commerce & Insurance’s (TDCI) Division of Consumer Affairs urges college students to stay alert and informed to better protect themselves from identity theft.
Identity theft is a serious crime that can affect a person at any age. Identity theft can ruin your finances, your credit history and your reputation. Once con artists steal your personal information, they can drain your bank account, run up charges on credit cards, open new utility accounts or get medical treatment on your health insurance.
“Don’t make yourself an easy target for identity thieves,” said TDCI Deputy Commissioner Bill Giannini. “College students can help protect their finances by staying diligent. Guard your sensitive personal information, change your passwords often, and monitor your credit reports.”
Here are a few tips to help Tennessee college students protect their identities:
· Order your credit report. The Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act mandates that each of the major credit bureaus supply consumers with a free copy of their credit report each year. Get your credit report at www.AnnualCreditReport.com.
· Know how to spot phishing. Phishing is a technique used by identity thieves to get your sensitive information by pretending to be a site you trust. Phishing schemes are successful because you believe you’re just signing into your bank or credit card account, when it’s really a ploy to get your important information. When logging into these accounts, make sure that you are not being asked for any information that you usually wouldn’t be required to provide to log in.
· Don’t reuse passwords. As tempting as it may be to reuse passwords, it’s a really good practice to use a different password for every account you access online. By keeping different passwords for different accounts, someone will not be able to access your checking, brokerage and email accounts if they discover one of your passwords.
· Don’t put private information on public computers. If you’re away from home, make sure not to save private information on a computer used by the public.
· Unfortunately, sometimes identity theft occurs. Once you discover you are the victim of identity theft, you should immediately notify credit bureaus, creditors, and law enforcement
about the identity theft. In dealing with authorities and financial institutions, keep a log of all conversations, including dates, times, names, and phone numbers. Confirm conversations in writing, send correspondence by certified mail and keep copies of all letters and documents.
For more consumer resources, contact the TDCI Division of Consumer Affairs at 800-342-8385 or visit www.wehelpconsumers.tn.gov.