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Every week, join Whitney Quick as she helps you navigate life as a smart consumer. You'll cover everything in avoiding the latest scams, including phishing emails, medical equipment fraud, understanding layaway, hiring a reputable tax preparer, and even digital spring cleaning. Add to your toolbox and flip through your Consumer Handbook Thursdays during NPR’s Morning Edition at 6:42 a.m. and 8:42 a.m., only on KRCU.

Consumer Handbook: College ID Theft

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For college freshmen leaving home for the first time, summer can be a frenzied time of shopping for dorm room essentials, packing up clothes and saying goodbye to high school friends. In the midst of this hustle and bustle, parents need to make time to talk to their students about money and protecting themselves against identity theft while they’re on or off campus during the pandemic.

Thieves see young students as desirable victims because they usually have clean credit records – and they also may not know how to detect scams. Some students may leave sensitive papers in plain sight or they may forget to lock their dorm room doors. Theft by someone they know – even a roommate - is often more of a problem than hackers committing a data breach.

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

School mailboxes are not always secure and often can be accessed easily in a dorm or apartment. To combat sticky fingers in the mailroom, have sensitive mail sent to a permanent address, such as a parent’s home or a post office box.

Important documents should be stored under lock and key. This includes your Social Security card, passport and bank and credit card statements. Shred any paper documents that have sensitive financial information rather than just tossing them out. Also shred any credit card offers that come in the mail.

Make sure your computer, laptop or tablet has up-to-date antivirus and anti-spyware software. Always install any updates and patches to your computer’s operating system or browser software, which help keep your computer safe from new schemes or hacks 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. Getting your statements online is more secure, but make sure you actually look at the statements.

Cape Girardeau native Whitney Quick is the Regional Director of Better Business Bureau in Cape Girardeau, MO, and is responsible for outreach efforts in Southeast Missouri and Southern Illinois. Quick is a graduate of Cape Girardeau Central High School and Southeast Missouri University where she majored in public relations. Quick enjoys helping educate consumers in the southeast Missouri region by sharing consumer tips with groups and educating them about BBB’s resources.