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Someone in my dorm was victim of identity theft. Why is someone targeting students when we have little money?

We are witnessing a technological shift to enterprise mobility, where everything related to the internet is becoming mobile. Every student in America is the beneficiary of this technology. However, a new development may have a group trying to exploit it, while their corporate counterparts are patching any potential vulnerability. Protecting yourself involves avoiding some common mistakes that students make with their personal information.

Nearly a quarter of all identity theft complaints are made by people between the ages of 18 and 29, so you and other college students need to be concerned about identity theft. According to a Boston University study, over 13 million Americans were victim to identity theft in 2015, with the average financial loss $1,343. College students are particularly at risk as most are just reaching the age where they will be responsible for their own finances. However, most are inexperienced in dealing with credit and financial transactions and leave open their defenses and become easy targets for cyber criminals.

In 2015 the Federal Trade Commission recorded an almost 50% jump in identity theft complaints from the previous year. It was noted that the most likely to be affected where households headed by 18-24 year olds, namely college students. Living in close proximity to friends and strangers, as students do, leads to trusting and sharing of possessions, including digital devices.

Identity theft can be devastating to victims, many of which only find out after being denied credit or being contacted by a debt collector. This can cause endless anxiety especially to those new to the world of financial dealings. Any monetary loss, no matter how small, will affect the average student who has not had the time to accumulate any savings or financial stability.

Be mindful of what you post on social media and keep accounts set to private or friends only. A half-competent identity thief can get most of their material from social media so be aware of what you share. Also, be aware of what you click, social media sites such as Facebook are literally awash with spam, malware, clickbait and fraudulent posts, that direct you to a spurious website trying to run a credit card scam on you by asking for financial or personal information.

Students are generally pretty slack at internet security and the hackers know this. Unsecured, shared college wireless networks and public hotspots are a prime entry point for snoopers. You should avoid doing any online banking, paying bills or emailing sensitive documents over unsecured and open wifi connections. Others can and will listen in and intercept data transmissions in the hope of catching something useful. The same applies to public computers such as those on campus, so never use these for anything involving finances or personal information.

Your own personal devices whether you use a laptop, tablet, smartphone, or all of them, should be secured with a strong password or pin. Never leave them laying around unlocked, you are just inviting the wrong kind of attention. Likewise, never give your passwords or login info to anyone else, keep your personal data secure.

Every student should know that this threat to internet users has created a boom in the job market for cybersecurity. Students can prepare themselves studying computer science and data science graduate programs. This is now one of the fast-growing and highest-paying fields, with an estimated 1.5 job openings by 2019.

If you were concerned about identity theft, you shouldn’t have left your private information lying around where I could find it… Glasbergen.

Written by Martin J. Young, former correspondent of Asia Times.

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