Crime Prevention Tip #13

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Preventing ID Theft at College

With the start of a new academic year we want to offer some suggestions to help prevent you from becoming a victim of identity theft. According to the Wisconsin Office of Privacy Protection, young people, 18 to 29, continue to account for almost 30 percent of all identity theft complaints.

"Nowadays," says Janet Jenkins, Division of Trade and Consumer Protection Administrator, "it's not enough to send your college freshman to school with a laptop, cell phone, books and clean clothes. A cross-cut shredder and a locking box large enough to hold a laptop, loaded with current computer security software, are equally important. And a credit card offers more protection than a debit card." Teaching students to protect their personal information and how to watch for fraud is very important to safeguarding their identity. Students are more at risk if they are not equipped with the information they need to keep their identity safe. Jenkins says protection is as simple as following these few safeguarding rules:
  • Checking your report regularly is one of the best ways to protect against identity theft. Obtain your credit report FREE from each of the three major credit reporting agencies each year. You can get your free credit report from Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion by calling 877-322-8228 or online at
  • Safeguard your mail. Check it daily. If you receive junk mail, don't be so quick to throw it out without opening it first. It might contain personally identifiable information or it might be a pre-approved credit card offer that someone else can fill out to obtain a credit card in your name. Dispose of all mail securely.
  • Stop pre-approved credit card offers by calling toll-free to 888-5OPTOUT (888-567-8688) or by visiting the Opt Out website at Reduce junk mail by writing to Mail Preference Service, Direct Marketing Association, P.O. Box 643, Carmel, NY 10512. The service is good for five years and is also available online at a cost of $5 at
  • Guard your social security number. Don't carry your social security card with you and don't use your social security number as a PIN or password if you can avoid it.
  • Pay attention to internet security. Make certain you have firewall, virus, spam, and spyware protection on your computer. Check your browser security settings to make certain that they aren't too low.
  • Check your bills and bank statements. Look at your statements as soon as you get them to see if there are any unauthorized charges or withdrawals. If there are, report them right away. If you bank online or pay bills online, don't wait for an entire month to review your statements. Review them periodically to make certain an identity thief is not using your accounts or your credit cards.
For more information, call the toll free hotline of the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection: 1-800-422-7128 or UW Green Bay Police at 465-2300 ext. 2