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From the "The Essential Dorm Item: A Safe"
Last Updated: 02/28/2010
The Essential Dorm Item: A Safe Steve Rosen Tribune Media Services The Essential Dorm Item: A Safe Moving my daughter into her dorm on a hot Texas weekend was a two-carload proposition -- from clothing and bedding to all the typical creature comforts from home. But there was one dorm-room essential, besides the can of WD-40, that I made sure we didn't leave home without: the 25-pound fireproof mini safe. You betcha. I personally tucked the dull gray, steel box in my daughter's closet so she can store bank statements, credit and debit card receipts, passwords, and school identification numbers. I never would have thought of adding a safe to my dorm-room shopping list 30 years ago, but these days, it's a sign of the times. An unattended room and unlocked door can provide a thief with easy access to your son or daughter's wallet, checkbook, or sensitive financial information left innocently and in plain sight on a stack of textbooks. Students may have idyllic notions about college campuses being open, protected environments, and in many ways they are. But crime doesn't stop at the main gate in front of the quadrangle. In fact, students may be more vulnerable to identity theft because of their record-keeping and online habits, and the availability of their personal information on computers, according to the U.S. Department of Education. In one national survey, nearly one-third of students said they rarely, if ever, reconcile their credit card and checking account balances, even though online banking makes this easier to do. In addition, about half of all college students receive credit card applications on a weekly basis and throw out the forms without destroying them. This type of relaxed behavior increases a student's chances of being victimized. With the recent rash of high-profile identity theft cases that snagged no less than Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, it bears reminding your undergrad about protecting their personal and financial identity. It all starts with awareness. Here are some suggestions, culled from the federal government, and privacy newsletters and Web sites, on how students can protect themselves at school. Many students use their laptops for online banking, and to shop for textbooks, concert tickets and other merchandise. That means that despite many safeguards, credit card information, Social Security numbers and other personal data are floating somewhere that could be comprised. No wonder stolen laptops top the list of thefts on campuses. The message: Don't leave a laptop unattended in the cafeteria or library. (And remember to purchase a security cable to bolt the laptop to a desk or chair. Also, consider a laptop safe for about $50 on up.) Don't carry your Social Security card with you. Memorize the number. Review bank statements every month for any signs of unrecognized activity, and alert the bank to any questionable transactions. Don't use your date of birth as a password. Use a firewall program on your computer, and do not download files sent by strangers or click on hyperlinks from people you don't know. A shredder for the dorm room may be a good idea. Rather than tossing all those pre-approved credit card offers in the trash, your student can shred, shred, shred. As for that safe, buying one for your son or daughter also can serve a dual purpose. The $25-or-so metal boxes can be ideal containers for a batch of brownies -- sort of a start-of-the-school-year care package from home.

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