Students Beware! Identity thieves are studying you!

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It is probably no surprise to most adults that identity theft is one of the fastest growing types of fraud. But what may be more alarming is that people in the 18 to 29 age range are the fastest growing group of victims. One need not look too far to figure out why.

Today's young people have grown up in a digital society. They routinely post their personal information on websites like MySpace and Facebook. Often, they provide much more information than they should, e.g. their full names, addresses, phone numbers, birth dates, employers', pets' and friends' names or places they like to hang out, all of which leaves them (and their parents) susceptible to criminal activities. While college students may think they're only sharing innocuous tidbits of personal information on public websites, these "tidbits," once collected and assembled, can provide a thief with enough data to wreak havoc in one's life and finances.

If students are not vigilant about protecting their credit identities, they run the risk of having their credit ratings destroyed if they fall victim to identity theft. But it is not just online behavior that can lead to identity theft. College kids are bombarded daily with credit card offers, both in the mail and through booths that are commonly set up on college campuses. Initially, the payments on their credit cards may seem quite affordable. However, when an ID theft occurs, interest rates rise -and so do the payments. When unpaid bogus accounts contaminate credit reports, it can take months or years to fix the mess, leaving one to pay higher auto insurance and credit card payments. The payments that once seemed quite affordable suddenly skyrocket, along with an individual's stress level! Fraud Alerts can be placed on credit reports however; these are usually only good for about 90 days or so. (Credit freezes are now available but you need to determine if you will be seeking credit in the near future as you will have to pay to freeze it and then unfreeze it). You need to determine which safety measure is best for your situation.

Students should start by getting their free annual credit reports from a legitimate source. The toll free, automated number for ordering a credit report is 877-322-8228. All three available credit reports can be ordered in one quick call. Remember - knowledge is power and in the world of credit and fraud, what you don't know can definitely hurt you!

So what can you do about it? The bottom line is to be proactive when guarding your identity from fraud!

Here are some tips (and warnings) to keep in mind...

1. Monitor your credit card, bank and loan statements. If you are expecting a bill that doesn't come, contact your account holder immediately. If you see any unexpected spikes in your interest rates, contact your creditor. Unexpected interest rate spikes can be a tip off that erroneous information is contaminating your credit report. Watch for withdrawals or charges you did not make!

2. Be watchful of people lurking nearby while using ATMs, credit cards, checks and your computer. Thieves will often hover near you to steal account and PIN numbers; they are trained to memorize account numbers.

3. Always delete any personal information and passwords you may have entered into a shared computer. You never know who is going to be using it next and you never know if the computer is already infected with key-logging spy ware that collects bits of information on you with every stroke you make on the keyboard.

4. Make sure all correspondence mailed to you has your correct name and address. If there are name variations, contact the sender and ask why you are receiving it. When throwing out documents that contain personal information...SHRED them into small pieces.

5. Safeguard your laptop. Over the last 6 months, many of the data breaches have occurred in colleges and universities through the theft of laptops. Always make sure that your laptop is password protected, and armed with a firewall and up-to-date virus protection software -at all times.

6. Monitor you credit reports. Look for any name, address or open accounts that are not yours. Dispute all inaccuracies via certified mail.

7. Place fraud alerts on your credit reports. Remember, they fall off every 90 days or so. If you are not going to take the time to monitor and order your credit reports, consider hiring a company that does it for you. It's not just your identity they steal - it's your valuable time they rip off as well. See "How much value to you place on your "free" time time?"

8. Remember profiles and posts are never private. Employers often Google a prospective employee's name to see what is on their personal pages or what others post about them.

9. Keep you Social Security number, passwords and PIN's safeguarded -and never carry them in your wallet.

10. Don't provide any personal information such as your Social Security number, bank account numbers or credit card data to anyone who contacts you via telephone solicitation, email or on social networking sites. Oftentimes, scam emails and phone calls will appear authentic and urgent -but they are not! If you receive a notice from someone instructing you to dial an 800 number, first check your statement or legitimate documentation for the valid phone number. Fake websites and bogus 800 numbers are often included in "phishing" email scams, which are designed to appear urgent -don't fall for them. Legitimate companies will not ask for this information through emails.

11. Prevent thieves from cracking passwords. Pick Passwords and profiles carefully. Pet names, birthdates, interests such as favorite sport team or band, favorite hangouts, hobbies, spouses and childrens names are often compiled in passwords and thieves know this. They use these bits of information to crack you password and then get into bank accounts or other online sites you frequent such as Amazon, iTunes or anywhere you utilize that password, including email accounts, to purchase goods and services.

12. Learn about the dangers of too much debt. Efforts to correct fraud or credit reporting errors, especially those associated with id theft, can take years to clean up. When errors or fraud are contaminating your credit reports it causes you to pay higher insurance premiums and higher credit card interest rates. Credit card payments can quickly grow unaffordable as with just one error, one id theft or one account opened in your name and reported as late can double or triple your payments due to interest rate spikes. Debt Logistics has a new system that comes equipped with a tutorial and provides easy to understand language that will show the user just how to use the low APR offers received from credit card companies in order to beat them at their own game. The system does all the strategizing and figuring for you. Considering the overwhelming economic hardship created by massive amounts of unmanageable personal debt, a product that teaches people the optimal way to manage their current debt is worth taking a look at.

Taking necessary precautions now -can save you a lot of time, money and aggravation later. If you don't want to pick up the pieces of your life when an identity theft strikes I suggest you check out LifeLock. I personally subscribe to their services because I don't want to spend hundreds of hours cleaning up my credit and reclaiming my identity alone.

For an instant 20% discount, go to and click on enroll and use the promotional code:denise

For $88.00a year or $8.00 a month they will take steps to prevent identity theft from happening -but more importantly, if it does they promise to fix it -and they back that promise up with a million dollar guarantee.

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