Protecting Your Identity in the Era of Access

“It’s not a matter of if it will happen to you, it’s a matter of when,” stated Margaret Day of the United States Department of Education as she spoke about identity theft in higher education. During the first week of the spring quarter, as financial aid manager for the Globe University-Sioux Falls campus, I had the pleasure of attending the South Dakota Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (SDASFAA) spring conference.

Although a majority of the conference was spent on updated federal regulations, the topic of identity theft was one that many know too well. Day went on to say, “college-age adults are prime targets for identity theft; they usually have good credit scores and information can be easily obtainable as well as other belongings.”

Financial Aid Manager, Elizabeth Augustine, explaining the importance of identity protection

In a recent survey conducted by the Department of Education, 48 percent of college students admitted to leaving their personal information out and unattended (i.e. backpacks, purses, iPads, cell phones, etc.). While it could appear your belongings are safe while you run to the restroom, it could only take a matter of seconds for someone to steal your identity.

Not only does having your identity stolen financially wreak havoc on your life, it is also very personal; with a few clicks of a button, someone can turn your world upside down, and it is not easy getting it all back.

Ask yourself, who has access to my personal information? Where is that information saved? Is it easily obtainable at my house or computer? Would I know where to find it if I needed it?

Here are some tips to help keep you and your identity safe:

  • Shred any unnecessary documents: If you need to keep it, keep it somewhere safe and shred (not just tear up) everything else. People who are stealing your identity only need a sliver of information. That means the cell phone bill you threw away might be just what they need. If someone wants to steal your identity, trust me, they might dig through your garbage to do so.
  • Delete information stored on your electronic devices: Stored information such as passwords, account numbers, credit card information, etc. can be easily accessible over the internet. Delete your cookies, web browsing history, and saved payment credit card/debit card numbers.
  • Keep your important documents locked away: Did you know that you should not carry your social security card with you? Memorize it and put it in a safe place (like a safe), along with your birth certificate, passport and any bank, mortgage, and/or loan statements.

Following these simple guidelines and making sure you are taking the necessary steps to protect yourself can be the difference between financial identity security or a nightmare.

Written by Financial Aid Manager Elizabeth Augustine