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Resources > Cyberattacks > Why College Students Are Frequently Targeted by Identity Thieves—Key Reasons Explained

Why College Students Are Frequently Targeted by Identity Thieves—Key Reasons Explained

Identity theft is an issue that impacts individuals worldwide, and college students are no exception. Thanks to modern technology, criminals have found new avenues to exploit personal information, making it crucial for college students to understand the risks and take steps to safeguard their personal data. This article will discuss why college students are frequently targeted by identity thieves and what they can do to protect themselves. We’ll also explore what the full scope of this problem is and why investing in a premium identity protection service can significantly reduce your vulnerability.

How Does College Student Identity Theft Occur?

Identity theft is a growing concern among college students due to a combination of digital and physical vulnerabilities unique to the college environment. Here’s a breakdown of how it can happen:

TechniqueHow It Works
Stealing unsecured personal informationWhen important documents like Social Security cards, passports, or bank statements are left unsecured in dorm rooms or apartments, they become easily accessible to thieves
Exploitation of public Wi-FiColleges often offer free Wi-Fi access to students. If these networks aren’t properly secured or if students access information without encryption, cyber thieves can steal their data
Phishing schemesStudents may receive fraudulent emails or messages supposedly from the university, banks, or even employers. These scams are designed to trick students into revealing financial details
Peer to Peer (P2P) file sharingUsing P2P networks can expose students’ devices to software that can extract private data without their knowledge
Unattended personal itemsStudents often study in communal areas and leave behind items like wallets, laptops, or phones. This creates an opportunity for someone to steal their information
Social media oversharingStudents sometimes unknowingly share information on social media platforms, providing identity thieves with enough details to impersonate them or answer their security questions

Why Are College Students the Frequent Target of Identity Thieves?

Although college students are among the prime targets for identity theft, they often show less concern—even though they’re uniquely vulnerable to it. In a survey by Javelin Strategy & Research, more than 64% of the students surveyed expressed minimal worry about this kind of fraud—and around 15% of students reported experiencing moderate to severe consequences due to identity theft incidents.

The study also revealed that students often come to know about identity fraud indirectly. For example, 22% of students discovered they were victims of identity fraud when contacted by debt collectors or when their credit application was rejected. Finally, compared to other groups, students are four times more likely to become victims of fraud where the person responsible is someone they know.

Here are five reasons college students are the number one target for identity theft:

  1. Lifestyle and living conditions
  2. Lack of experience and awareness
  3. Frequent transactions and applications
  4. High use of digital platforms
  5. Social dynamics and peer influence

Lifestyle and Living Conditions

Many college students reside in dormitories or shared apartments with multiple people. It’s common for documents containing sensitive information to be left in unlocked rooms, making them accessible to roommates, friends, or even strangers. Also, students tend to use shared computer resources at the library or study areas that may have malware, making them vulnerable to cyberattacks if not properly protected.

Lack of Experience and Awareness

College students—especially those who are managing their finances independently for the first time—may lack the experience and knowledge on how to best protect their personal and financial information. This lack of awareness can result in mistakes such as:

Frequent Transactions and Applications

The college environment requires students to engage in various transactions and applications—from opening bank accounts or credit card applications to applying for housing or on-campus jobs. Each of these activities involves sharing information, which increases the chances of their personal data falling into the wrong hands and being misused.

High Use of Digital Platforms

Modern students heavily rely on digital platforms for studying, communication, and entertainment purposes. Because of this, a lack of knowledge about proper cybersecurity measures can make them susceptible to a range of threats on social media platforms, including downloading malware and falling victim to scams. 

For example, you can unknowingly click on links in messages on your social media without realizing that these messages might not be from your friends but from identity thieves posing as your friends. Unfortunately, these links don’t lead to the expected content—instead, they secretly download software that captures keystrokes. This dangerous malware helps hackers steal the information stored on your computer, smartphone, or tablet, making you a target of identity theft.

Social Dynamics and Peer Influences

In a college environment, students can be influenced by their peers to join platforms, install specific apps, or subscribe to popular services. These social influences may cause students to make choices without assessing the security of these platforms or the legitimacy of the offers.

Plus, trusting students may share passwords, PINs, or other sensitive information more freely, exposing themselves to identity fraud.

How To Protect Yourself From Identity Theft

Identity theft is a serious crime that can have extremely harmful consequences, but there are measures you can take to protect yourself. Here are five tips to help you safeguard your information and reduce the risk of falling victim to identity theft:

  1. Strengthen your passwords—Ensure you use unique passwords for all your accounts. It’s best to include a combination of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters in your passwords so they’re not easily guessed
  2. Exercise caution with information—Only provide sensitive details when necessary and exercise caution when receiving requests for information via email or phone calls. Legitimate organizations rarely solicit information this way
  3. Regularly monitor accounts—Make it a habit to review your bank statements, credit card bills, and other financial accounts for any suspicious activities. If you find anything unusual, report it immediately to your bank or financial institution
  4. Check credit reports periodicallyRequest copies of your credit reports from the major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) at least once a year. Thoroughly examine the reports for any inaccuracies or signs of fraudulent activity
  5. Stay alert to phishing scams—Be careful when receiving emails, texts, or phone calls requesting financial details. Refrain from clicking on links or downloading attachments from unknown sources. If uncertain, reach out directly to the organization using their contact information
  6. Keep your documents safe—Securely store important documents like your Social Security card, passport, and financial records in a designated place. Before disposing of them, shred any documents that contain sensitive information to prevent unauthorized access

What To Do if You Are a Victim of Identity Theft as a College Student

College students may be easy targets, but you can help prevent identity theft by staying vigilant over your information and accounts. The best way to protect yourself during your college years and beyond is by staying informed and taking proactive measures. If you suspect you may be a victim of ID theft as a college student, you should take the following steps immediately:

  1. Place a fraud alert or freeze your credit reports to lock access
  2. Review all financial statements line by line to check for unauthorized activity
  3. File an identity theft report
  4. Contact creditors, banks, utility companies, insurance firms, and credit bureaus to report the fraud
  5. Monitor all accounts closely going forward and check statements regularly

While necessary, protecting your information takes time and effort. Luckily, you can rely on the help of your parents to get a service like FreeKick for peace of mind. You can also sign up for it yourself if you’re no longer a minor.

FreeKick—Parent-Sponsored Credit Building and Identity Protection (Coming Soon)

Created by Austin Capital Bank, FreeKick prioritizes the protection of your personal information. It offers a package that combines a deposit account backed by FDIC insurance with additional identity monitoring and credit-building services.

When you sign up for a FreeKick account, your identity is continuously monitored to keep your information safe and up to date. With a parent’s help (or by yourself), you can access all the services offered by FreeKick, including:

  • Credit profile monitoring
  • Social Security number monitoring
  • Dark web monitoring for personal information
  • Up to $1 million identity theft insurance
  • Full-service white-glove concierge credit restoration
  • Lost wallet protection
  • Court records monitoring
  • Change of address monitoring
  • Non-credit (Payday) loan monitoring
  • Free FICO® Score monthly
  • FICO® Score factors
  • Experian credit report monthly

FreeKick also offers identity protection services for minors, including:

  • Credit profile monitoring
  • Social Security number monitoring
  • Dark web monitoring for children’s personal information
  • Up to $1 million identity theft insurance
  • Full-service white-glove concierge credit restoration
  • Sex offender monitoring—based on sponsor parent’s address

Every 30 seconds, a child’s identity gets stolen—FreeKick helps families avoid being part of the alarming statistics.

How FreeKick Works

In addition to ID monitoring for up to two parents and six children aged 0–25, FreeKick offers another invaluable service for securing you a more stable future—automated credit building.

Establishing a credit history early can bring you multiple benefits—not only does it give you time to improve your credit profile, but it also allows you to enjoy the advantages of having good credit in the future. FreeKick helps you build good credit from an early age, which can save you more than $200,000 over a lifetime. 

Although it’s often challenging for students to access credit options, FreeKick offers a solution that can greatly contribute to your financial future. The process is simple:

  1. Create an Account—Visit FreeKick.bank and choose a plan that suits your deposit requirements to activate your account
  2. Set It and Forget It—After activating the account, FreeKick takes action by creating a 12-month credit history for you. This is accomplished through a no-interest credit builder loan that gets repaid using the deposit
  3. Keep Growing—When the 12-month period comes to an end, you and your parents have the choice to either renew the account for another term or close it and receive a refund of your initial deposit

The pricing options are flexible—you can choose from the following options:

FDIC-Insured Deposit AmountCost

To overcome the identity protection challenges college students face and secure a strong financial future with the help of your parents, opt for FreeKick.