As the new generation of University students start to plan for moving into halls or shared digs this autumn, Equifax is highlighting to parents the potential ID fraud risks associated with communal living. The ID fraud expert is urging parents to make sure their offspring think about how they can protect their personal information as well as their valuables.
Andrew Webb, Sales & Marketing Director of Equifax Personal Solutions believes it’s easy to forget the value of personal information, especially when living in communal accommodation. He also believes the mobile phone scam that is reportedly plaguing a number of university campuses highlights the vulnerability of cash-strapped students.
“According to recent reports*, police are currently investigating a scam where students have been persuaded to take out mobile phone contracts, and then sell the phones on to another company with the promise of income”, explained Andrew Webb. “But it seems that more often than not, the innocent victims end up being liable for the new user’s debts. They could also have given away their personal information – or clues to passwords and PINs – unlocking a wealth of opportunities for fraudsters.
“It can take as little as just three pieces of personal information to commit ID fraud, so it’s absolutely crucial that students stay alert to the risks – and we think it’s a message Mums and Dads can reinforce before their children embark on the next stage of their education. From making sure they don’t leave post in communal hallways for fraudsters to skim through, to not giving away too much personal information in exchange for apparently great deals and offers, this year’s freshers need to be alert to the risks.
“Once a fraudster has sufficient information to steal someone’s identity it can take many hours to rectify records held by all sorts of organisations. In the meantime, it can be exceptionally difficult to carry on with everyday life, especially where it requires access to credit, including something as simple as a mobile phone contract.”
Equifax also urges students to be aware of the risks of fraud associated with social networking sites and posting any personal information online, including CVs. “Students should think very carefully about the number of people they will be meeting at university who will become Facebook friends, allowing access to all their information”, added Andrew Webb. “How well do they really know these ‘friends’? Can they be trusted not to abuse their personal information?
“The key to protecting your identity is not to leave personal information lying around and think twice about what information you post online or give out.”
EQUIFAX’S TOP STUDENT TIPS FOR AVOIDING ID FRAUD
• If you have a communal hallway, have important documents such as bank and credit card statements sent recorded delivery or delivered to a family home address.
• Password protect all digital devices, including smart phones.
• Don’t store PINs and passwords on mobiles and laptops, as thieves could use this information to access your personal information.
• Try not to access online banking and secure sites using public computers and if you do make sure you log out of the site in addition to closing the window.
• Keep personal documents secure – when you go out make sure you only take those documents you need.
• Never share your password or PIN with anyone
• Restrict the amount of personal information you provide when posting your CV online or making it available to others – you can always provide more information at a later date.
• Check that any websites on which you upload personal details are secure by looking for the padlock icon
• Redirect mail if you move so personal information can’t be accessed by fraudsters.
• Always check bank statements and credit card statements carefully against receipts
to ensure that there have not been any unexpected transactions.
• Make sure you have up to date virus protection installed.
• Check your credit report regularly to ensure there has been no unauthorised activity.
The Equifax Credit Report is accessible for 30 days free simply by logging ontowww.equifax.co.uk/Products/credit/credit-report. If customers do not cancel before the end of the 30 Day Free Trial, the service will continue at £9.95 per month, giving them unlimited online access to their credit information and weekly alerts on any changes to their credit file. It also includes an online dispute facility to help them correct any errors on their credit file simply and quickly and the Equifax WebDetect service which offers an added layer of security against fraudsters who may be trawling the net for personal information. Using the latest cutting edge technology to search places where criminals trade including networks, chat rooms and websites worldwide, Equifax WebDetect enables the detection of stolen identity credentials, finding consumer data regardless of nationality or location.
*BBC News report 22nd August 2014