U.S. identity fraud is at an all-time high, and recent reports indicate that college students are at particular risk for ID theft, partly because it often takes them twice as long to learn that they have been swindled. Studies show that most fraud begins occurring with a week from when the data is stolen. But because college kids are less likely to track banking and credit card activity on a routine and timely basis, the fraud often goes undetected longer.
Additional risks that make college students susceptible to ID theft:
So-called “friendly fraud” — fraud perpetrated by friends and family — accounts for one in seven fraud cases.
College students are very active on social media sites, and may unwittingly share more sensitive information than they realize.
To deter ID theft, experts offer the following tips:
- Monitor your financial accounts regularly
- Be cautious about sharing identifying information on social networking sites
- Learn how to recognize and be alert for phishing scams
- Use secure passwords and change them frequently
- Log out of your computer when you are not using it
- Keep your computer up to date with the latest spyware and anti-virus software
For more resources on identity fraud, see the Federal Trade Commission’s Identity Theft Site and the FBI’s e-scams & warnings page.
Identity Theft Insurance
You may want to consider Identity Theft Insurance, but first be sure you learn more about what it does and doesn’t cover before you purchase – many people have misconceptions. Also, check to see how any existing coverage you have, such as Homeowners, might protect you. And do your homework before purchasing. Check The National Association of Insurance Commissioners Consumer Alert, which notes that while policies are available, they do not protect you from becoming a victim of identity theft and do not cover direct monetary losses incurred as result of identity theft. Rather, they insure you for any costs that might be incurred in reclaiming your identity, such as hiring an attorney, taking time from work, and any administrative costs such as the cost of phone calls or postage.
Each August since 1998, as millions of freshmen prepare to embark on their college years, Beloit College has released the Beloit College Mindset List, which provides a look at the cultural environment that has shaped the lives of those students. For those of us with a few more years under out belts, the list can be startling. For the Class of 2013, “… Carter and Reagan are as distant to them as Truman and Eisenhower were to their parents. Tattoos, once thought “lower class,” are, to them, quite chic. Everybody knows the news before the evening news comes on.”
For this year’s freshmen, Martha Graham, Pan American Airways, Michael Landon, Dr. Seuss, Miles Davis, and Freddie Mercury have always been dead. Smoking has never been glorified, books have always been available on an electronic screen, and wars have always unfolded on TV in real time. We’ve given you a sampling of the data points, but the entire list makes for some fun reading. You can also check back to 1998 for archived lists.
Some things never change
While the cultural zeitgeist might change, one thing never changes: Parents want to ensure that students are safe and secure while away at school. As your students head off to school, it’s important take steps to ensure that they are adequately covered by insurance and make sure they understand the coverage and benefits that are available to them. If your student will be living away from home, you should ensure that they have emergency contact numbers and that they know how to report a claim if a loss or accident occurs. Some of the insurance coverage issues you need to consider include:
Health insurance – Will your student be covered under your policy or will you need to arrange coverage? Many family policies will cover full-time students but you need to check how the insurance company defines full time. Also, check your plan’s benefits, coverage area, and coverage requirements. If your student is an athlete, check coverage limits – you may need to arrange for additional coverage.
Auto insurance – Will your student have a car full-time at their college? If so, they may need their own policy. If not, you may be able to save money on your policy if they are only using your car intermittently. Ask if any “good student” or “safe driver” credits are available to your student – availability may depend on the state and the insurance company.
Personal possessions – Theft is the most common crime on college campuses. If your student will live in a dorm, personal possessions may be covered under your existing homeowner’s policy, but if they are living in an apartment, they may need rental insurance. Don’t assume that the college or the landlord will have coverage that will encompass your child’s possession in the event of fire, theft, or loss – check your homeowner’s policy to learn the extent of your coverage – you may need additional insurance if your student has expensive electronic equipment.
Of course, these are just the basics. There are other issues like ID theft, credit cards, life insurance, and more. Remember, many insurance matters are state-specific and governed by state laws. Often, state insurance bureaus offer consumer alerts so check with your state’s website.
Here are more resources to help you plan for the insurance needs of your college students:
College Insurance Needs – issued in 2008 from the Massachusetts Division of Insurance
Parents: Know your insurance policies before your student goes off to school – a 2009 Consumer Alert from the Kansas Insurance Department
College-Bound? Keep an Eye on Your GPA and Your Personal Possessions – insurance advice and safety tips from the Insurance Information Institute
What Your College Student Needs to Know about Identity Theft – a Consumer Alert from the National Association of Insurance Commisioners
Heading Off to College With an Empty Wallet? – tips for managing money while away at school from the Insurance Information Institute
College Athletes Often underinsured
College Health and Safety Tips
Campus Safety Tips