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Tips to help students avoid identity theft

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Ten tips from Intersections on how students can prevent identity theft:

1. When using campus computers and Wi-Fi hotspots, be aware that they aren't always secure. Ensure you are using encryption (i.e. anti-key logging software, or password protection) to scramble communications over the network. Try not to view personal information on open campus networks.

2. Keep your information secure by changing your passwords frequently. Keep your anti-virus and anti-spyware software updated. And if you're using your laptop around campus, always take it with you to ensure that others aren't reading what's on your hard drive.

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3. Credit offers abound on university and college campuses. Walk through a student union and you can stop and smell the free t-shirts, water bottles, and key chains that banks offer college students when they sign up for credit cards. While it's a great idea to start building a credit history, read the offers - and the fine print carefully - and understand exactly what you're signing up for. Keep your credit cards safe, and don't leave the bills lying around either.

4. Social networking sites are hot spots for most college students. Reveal as little as possible about yourself, especially family name, address, phone numbers, date of birth - identity thieves only need two or three pieces of this information to steal your identity.

5. Protect and memorize your Social Insurance number. Don't carry your SIN card with you. And don't give out that number to anyone who doesn't need it.

6. Invest in a good cross-cut shredder and properly dispose of all personal and financial materials. Credit card offers you receive in the mail should be shredded. Bank statements, tax documents - and other documents with personal information - should be securely stored until it is appropriate to shred. And never leave this information out in your dorm room or anywhere it could be accessed by others.

7. Online shopping is convenient, but be sure the sites you use are secure by looking for "https" in the URL. Check with sites' privacy policies so you know what they may be doing with your personal information, or if they've attached cookies to your computer, enabling them to track your viewing and usage patterns.

8. Start the process of routinely reviewing your credit report. You can contact one of Canada's national consumer reporting agencies - TransUnion or Equifax - and obtain a copy of your credit report.

9. If you're using peer-to-peer file sharing programs, be sure to configure the files securely so personal information is not accessible to others.

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10. Be wary of telemarketing and email scams. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Never give your personal information out.

Roma Luciw is a writer and web editor of the personal finance site. Please send any comments and story ideas to

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