College Students Warned to be on Guard Against Identity Theft

Updated: 08/31/2014 5:49 PM
Created: 08/31/2014 3:12 PM

By: Cassie Hart

With college students heading back to school the Federal Trade Commission has a warning for students to be vigilant and protect their private information. One in five identity theft victims are in their 20s and college students often don’t know just how vulnerable they are.

“A few of my friends were victims of identity theft,” said Roy Bell, a PhD student at the University of Minnesota.

Bell has his guard up and shreds or burns all paper documents.

“I don’t want to leave a paper trail and I want to try to prevent identity theft as best as I can,” Bell said.

But online, he says he’s not as secure.

“I really should do something before I become a victim of identity theft,” Bell said. Many tech-savvy college students feel invincible with their online prowess.

“I just don’t think it’s going to happen to me at this age, I know it could but I’m not concerned about it right now,” said Rebecca Leighton, student at the University of Minnesota.

But they should be, according to computer forensic consultant Chris Schulte. He said your awareness should be higher when on a wireless network.

“Anyone in physical proximity to you is able to listen in on those radio frequencies and actually see what you’re doing,” said Chris Schulte, Computer Forensic Consultant for LuciData.

To prove this Schulte created his own fake WiFi network called “University.” He attached his computer to it, and no password was needed and no authentication was required. It was an open WiFi hot spot. If students aren’t careful, they may enter too much information on his “university” WiFi, including bank user names and passwords.

“The user has no idea they are connected to this evil or criminal network,” said Schulte.

But there’s one trick to finding out how secure a website is.

“Always make sure you’re going to a website with the https:// prefix on the website, the “s” stands for security,” Schulte said.

Schulte also recommends students encrypt their computer systems in case their laptop or hard drive is stolen. Students should never download free pirated software, because that gives hackers an entry into their system and thieves don’t discriminate based on age.

Another recommendation from Schulte is to use a VPN whenever students use a WiFi network. It adds a layer of security so their connection isn’t compromised. He says he uses a VPN called “Private Internet Access.”

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