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Lesson #5.4 You Built The Credit, Here’s How To Protect It

Being a college student is tough enough without having to worry about your credit and identity being stolen.

But identity theft and credit fraud are very real dangers, especially for college students who are often targeted by identity thieves because they tend to have weak passwords, carry around their Social Security cards, and generally aren’t as security-savvy as older adults.

So it’s important to be vigilant and just like with your personal belongings, you have to protect it from thieves.

Here are some tips on how to protect yourself and your credit from identity theft:

1. Get a credit freeze

A credit freeze allows you to restrict access to your credit report, making it more difficult for identity thieves to open new accounts in your name. You can place a freeze on your credit report by contacting each of the three major credit reporting agencies.

2. Monitor your credit report

You are entitled to one free credit report from each of the three major credit reporting agencies every year. You can also sign up for a service that will notify you of any changes to your credit report.

3. Secure your personal information

This includes things like your Social Security number, date of birth, and bank account numbers. You should never carry these things in your wallet or write them down where they could be easily stolen. Instead, keep them in a safe place at home or in a secure online storage service.

4. Use strong passwords

A strong password should be at least eight characters long and should include a mix of letters, numbers, and symbols. You should never use the same password for more than one account, and you should change your passwords regularly.

5. Be careful with social media

Identity thieves can use information like your birthday or hometown to guess passwords or answer security questions. So, it’s important to only share information on social media that you’re comfortable with everyone seeing.

6. Shred documents with personal information

You should also shred any documents that have personal information on them before you throw them away. This includes things like bills, bank statements, and tax returns. A paper shredder is an inexpensive way to protect yourself from identity theft.

7. Don’t give out personal information over the phone or internet

You should also be careful about giving out personal information over the phone or internet. Identity thieves may pose as representatives from banks or other companies in order to get you to give them sensitive information like account numbers or Social Security numbers. If you receive a call or email from someone asking for personal information, do not respond and instead contact the company directly to verify that the request is legitimate

8. Review your credit card and bank statements carefully.

Every month, review your credit card and bank statements carefully to ensure that all of the charges are accurate. If you see any charges that you don’t recognize, contact the merchant or financial institution immediately to resolve the issue.

9. Use a secure browser when shopping online.

When shopping online, be sure to use a secure browser such as Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox. A secure browser will encrypt your personal information so that it cannot be intercepted by third parties.

10. Use a credit monitoring service.

A credit monitoring service can help you keep tabs on your credit report and score, as well as alert you to any suspicious activity. There are many reputable credit monitoring services available, including Credit Karma and Identity Guard.

11. Use a fraud alert service.

If you are concerned about identity theft, you can sign up for a fraud alert service such as LifeLock or TrustedID. These services will notify you if someone tries to open an account in your name or make other changes to your personal information.