(Written in October 2013)
College students are being advised to take more preventative measures when it comes to protecting their personal information.
According to a recent press release from the Better Business Bureau, young adults are the most at-risk group for identity theft because of their high use of smartphones and social media. They also found that “friendly fraud” situations, in which friends access smartphones or social media accounts without permission, account for more than 20 percent of on-campus identity theft.
University Information Security Officer Rob Arnold said smartphones make students vulnerable to identity theft because they can be easily lost or stolen. According to Consumer Reports, 1.6 million phones were stolen in the U.S. last year alone.
Arnold said there are simple steps that can be taken to ensure safety if your phone is lost or stolen, such as encrypting it with a pin number. This is something nearly half of smartphone users don’t do, according to a study from Confident Technologies.
“One of the best reasons to use encryption is that it keeps you comfortable,” Arnold said. “You have assurance that your data hasn’t been disclosed. It’s the difference between losing a locked box or an unlocked box, and if you know the phone is encrypted you can take more time before you take more drastic measures too.”
In addition to encryption, Arnold said students can take other precautions to secure their information. Among those are not reusing passwords across multiple accounts, having a backup plan if you lose your smartphone and taking advantage of security services available on websites like Gmail and Facebook.
The Better Business Bureau also recommends that students keep important documents locked away and have important mail sent to a post office box or their family’s home.
Although it may seem time consuming, Arnold said taking steps like these will prove beneficial if a victim of identity theft.
“It is just a tiny productivity tax you pay when you have to do something like type in a pin,” he said. “None of them cost anything, but the time you spend doing these will definitely pay for itself over and over again in the scenario where you would have had your data compromised, your device attacked or one of your accounts used by somebody for malicious purposes.”
In cases of “friendly fraud,” Arnold said the best preventative measure to take is simply keeping your social media passwords to yourself and carefully considering what you share on the internet.
Bailey Dumire, a freshman from Seattle, said her parents’ identity was stolen five years ago, which has made her more cautious when it comes to her personal information on social media.
“I’m really careful about what I put on the Internet now,” Dumire said. “I’m not really into sharing stuff on Facebook, so I don’t have my age or where I live, and I don’t put any of the fine details.”
Kristen Korona, a senior from Kansas City, works at the Kansas Union Bookstore, which she said has also made her more aware of how easily someone can have their identity stolen.
“Working at retail I’ve had a few instances where people’s cards don’t match their IDs, so I’m aware that kind of stuff happens more often than you would think,” Korona said. “I’m more careful about if I log in at work to my bank or anything with cell phones or computers, I’m just more cautious about logging out now.”