Identity Protection for College Students

I’m amazed at the level of technology available on our college campuses.  For those who are my age, we had an electric typewriter that may have been self-correcting.  In order to access a computer we had to schedule time in a special facility on campus and even then, programming was done on punch cards.  Things have come a long way since then.

Today’s university students take laptops, tablets, iPods, and smartphones that will be connected via on-campus wi-fi.  The apps we use today on our tablets and smartphones enable us to connect, track classes, submit papers, and collaborate on group projects not to mention banking, money transfers, and pay for whatever is needed.  The amount of data that’s available makes an inviting target to identity thieves.

If you have a son or daughter heading off to college this fall, take a moment to discuss how to protect their identity on campus.  Here are 5 things they can do to help keep their identity and their data safe!

Lock doors:  Sounds simple, but a locked door is the first line of defense to keeping your laptop, other electronics, and wallet from growing legs and walking off in someone else’s hands.  This applies to dorm rooms, apartments, rented homes & even your vehicle.

Be able to ID your property:  Permanently mark property to identify it as yours in a bold and prominent way so others know to whom it belongs.  This is a great deterrent for anyone wanting to pick up a free laptop and makes the unmarked ones that much more attractive.

If a laptop, tablet, smartphone, or anything else is stolen, be able to prove it’s yours.  Write down, the make, model, and serial numbers of electronic items and make two copies.  Leave one at home and place the other in a secure spot with you.  This would be helpful in getting it back; if stolen the police will need it.  If they don’t find it, the identifying information may be needed for an insurance claim.

Password protection:  I’ve talked before about having a login for smartphones.  It’s also the first line of defense for an iPad, Kindle, and laptop.  I picked up a friend’s iPad on Saturday and was surprised there was no login code for it.  I had immediate access to everything she does on her tablet, and that’s not a good thing.

Put a little thought into creating passwords.  Avoid a sequence of the same number and sequential numbers.  Don’t use date of birth, name, a pet’s name, or words like ‘password’.  These are the first things a hacker will attempt.  Instead, incorporate a string of letters, numbers, and a special character or two such as @, ~, #, |, etc.

Use different passwords for all your logins.  The best practice is to have a unique password for each device and website you log into.  Rotate them every 30 to 90 days and don’t write them down for someone to find.

Limit what is shared:  We share an amazing amount of data in our social networks.  We post pictures of what we do on Facebook, check in as “the mayor” of a restaurant or coffee shop on Four Square, journal on Path, and share on Google+ and Twitter.  Most of us never think twice about what we share and yet, we often announce we’re away from home.  Our friends may not take advantage of that data, but there are those out there who can and will.  Remember to be careful in what is shared via social media.

I’ve also received a number of emails from about a dozen “companies” that contained a zip file.  These are not companies with whom I do business and the zip file was a virus or some othedr malware.  Don’t open zip files until able to verify with the person who sent it, that they in fact are the secure sender.

Inform your kids if they get any requests from a bank, the university, or a “businessman” requesting social security numbers or some other security data not to provide at all!  This goes for all texts and emails.

Laptop tracking & data wiping:  In an earlier blog I wrote, Toddler Buys Car on eBay with Dad’s Smartphone (, I included links for an array of apps that can remotely track and delete data on a smartphone that’s been lost or stolen.  There are similar apps available for laptops that range from free to $600 for multiple systems over a multi-year period.  Here are three links that will give you an idea of what’s available:

What are you doing to protect your student’s identity and data?  Share your suggestions, the steps you’re taking, or any questions you may have in the comments section of our blog or on our Facebook page.  I’d love to hear from you.


Ed Wise

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Evie Wise
Evie Wise


Evie Wise
Evie Wise

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