10 Back-to-College Security Tips

By: Robert Siciliano  |  October 6, 2015


It used to be where you’d only worry about your college kid getting sucked into some religious cult. But college kids nowadays face assault, bullying, damaged reputations online, cyber scams and identity theft.

In particular are 10 things to look out for:

#1. Public WiFi hacks: Using public Wi-Fi exposes you to hackers. Use encryption software. And never shop or do any financial transactions with public Wi-Fi. Search “VPN”.

#2. Phone scams: “Hello, I’m with the admissions department. I’m calling to notify you that your tuition payment is late. To prevent being dropped from your classes, you must make the payment right now with a credit card or prepaid card” Just hang up. No explanation necessary. Of course, for peace of mind, call your school’s administration office to make sure everything is squared away.

#3. Credit scams: College students get credit card offers from banks and credit card companies. These offers are chockfull of bad terms, high interest rates and other kinks. Your decision to get a credit card should be based on a genuine need for this, rather than just because you got a solicitation. Check with your bank. Read the fine print. Ask about fees.

#4. Damaged reputations: What you do may be used against you…namely, being photographed getting plastered or engaging in sexual behavior—what with everyone carrying a smartphone with a camera. Once the image of you is online, it’ll forever be possible for future prospective employers to see you acting stupid.

#5. Hacked passwords: Weak passwords are a gateway for many hacking incidents. Get a password manager (many services for this exist) that will create strong passwords and remember them for you.

#6. Scammy sites: Consider buying all your books from the campus supply store. There are textbook scam sites online that take your money—and deliver zero books.

#7. Check fraud: “Hey Jayson, will you cash this check for me? Thanks dude!” You cash the check and give your buddy the money. But the check bounces. Your buddy has disappeared and you’re stiffed with the bounce fee and of course, loss of the money. Simply do not agree to cash someone’s check. You are not their mother.

#8. Apartment scams: Never give over a security deposit or rental payment for an apartment unless you’ve inspected the place in person and met the landlord. Many college kids are suckered into making a payment before seeing the place—which doesn’t exist.

#9. Personal security: Being independent often means being out there in the world alone, facing potential dangers around every corner. Take a self defense class. Recognize that at any time you may be a target and should know how to protect yourself.

#10. Sexual assault. Studies show 1 in 4 female undergrads are sexually assaulted. Some campus cultures embrace the issue while others ignore it. Don’t sit back and say “it can’t happen to me”, because it can. Always buddy up, never leave anyone behind and be aware that anything you drink can be spiked with a drug.

Robert Siciliano is an identity theft expert to bestcompany.com discussing  identity theft prevention.

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