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Consumer protection officials offer tips to college students on keeping identity safe


MADISON, Wis. (WSAU) -- Students are on their way back to college, and state officials want freshmen and returning students to be aware of identity theft.

There's a number of ways criminals could be trying to get into your personal accounts and other data. Superintendent Sandy Chalmers says you need to keep on top of what sort of personal information you have lying around in your dorm room, especially in the trash. "Parents should consider sending a shredder along with their college students when they go to school. It's the best way to dispose of personally sensitive documents." You should also be keeping your dorm room secured and locked when you leave, and consider having a safe place to keep your important files.

College students may also have their first taste of getting blasted with junk snail mail, like credit card offers and other financial business. Chalmers says that you need to keep on top of junk mail because it can be used to steal your identity. "College students tend to move frequently, and if those credit card offers don't keep up with you at your latest address, it's very easy to take one of those and fraudulently open an account using your name and information."

You also should be aware of what you post on your social media. Chalmers says even innocuous things could be used against you. "Birthdates, pet names, mother's maiden names, can all be used to hack into your account, because that's information that can be used as a security question." Also be sure not to take pictures of things you want to keep secure, like credit cards or room keys.

For additional information, you can visit the state Consumer Protection Bureau at http://datcp.wisconsin.gov