Thieves target students during holidays, here’s how to stay safe

By Cami Moore

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Now that Thanksgiving is over and holiday shopping is in full swing, ‘tis the season for thieves to do what they do best.

Students are often thieves’ first targets during the holiday season, according to Michael Carr, UK’s chief information security officer. Identity and cyber theft are expected to increase during this shopping season.

Carr said when students pick up part-time jobs, especially during the holidays, they are often given login ID’s to move money from one bank to the other.

“Students are often used as mules by criminals to move money around,” Carr said.

There are a few ways you can steer clear of identity and cyber theft, according to Carr:

—Set up a text alert with your bank. With custom settings, it can alert you when your credit card has been used for a purchase that exceeds a preset amount.

—Beware of online scammers who build luring websites with attractive prices. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. If buyers aren’t careful they may visit a website that has been structured similar to a familiar website, and the intent of the thief is to trick you out of your personal information.

—Check your bank account daily for mysterious transactions, and monitor credit card and loan statements.

—File important account numbers, passwords and PINs in a secure location where they cannot be easily accessed.

—Use a credit card for purchases. Unlike a debit card, credit cards are federally and legally bound to dispute charges and get bogus purchases reversed.

Carr said the biggest problem is when people do not pay attention to the source of payment they use while making purchases online or in stores.

“My recommendation is to use a credit card as opposed to a debit card,” said Carr, who explained that a credit card is federally protected for only 50 dollars liability.

However, most reputable banks will cover the entire purchase that was made with a credit card if it is disputed within 30 days.

Many students do not check their credit scores often, so they are not likely to know if a thief acquires their account information. “This is another reason to check your bank statements,” Carr said.

Carr recommends students who live out of state or travel across state lines notify their bank when they are traveling.

“Many large financial institutions have fraud protection on credit cards and will notify a consumer if a purchase is made far from the norm,” Carr said.

Identity and cyber theft can still happen to students who take appropriate measures to stay secure. This can happen when companies’ credit card databases are hacked and thieves steal customers’ personal and credit information. Customers are often quick to blame companies, but there are many sources for this type of fraud.

Physical theft can also result in fraud. Carr said thieves follow delivery trucks and, when the package is dropped off at a residence where nobody is home or nobody is looking, they steal it.

Carr said this is another reason why it is important to follow the above steps — so students can solve the problem quickly if they are unable to prevent fraud from happening.