Fellowes logo and banner

Confidential Shredding

Protecting Your College Student From Identity Theft

The college campus is a prime location for identity thieves, as students with little or no credit are ideal targets. In fact, people in their twenties make up 20 percent of all identity theft victims, according to the Federal Trade Commission. As a simple solution for your college-bound kids, pack a dorm-sized shredder to protect them on campus and then "school" them on the basics of identity theft prevention.

Destroy credit card applications with a dorm paper shredder

Before your student even begins packing for college, credit card companies have already sent them credit apps by mail with attractive introductory offers. Even more will appear in their mailbox once in their dorms with faux cards attached and much of their information already on the form. Many of these paper applications end up unshredded in the trash. In fact, 49 percent of today's college students receive frequent applications for credit cards, and 30 percent of those college students throw the applications away in their original condition - that is, with all the personal information intact. Make sure your student understands to use their shredder to destroy all of these applications, especially those with pre-approval details.

Protect confidential information in dorm rooms

Even if new roommates can seem like friends, the risk of theft is always there. In addition, a single floor of any dorm building can house hundreds of students who can easily gain access to dorm rooms when they are vacant. Essential personal documents like social security cards, birth certificates may be necessary for a college student to take for a part-time job or for college registration. Provide your student with an inexpensive safe or even get them a safety deposit box at the local bank. Also make sure they use their shredder to destroy any documents, including loan paperwork, that contain this private information. You can also get them a smaller shredder that destroys credit cards and junk mail to ensure they shred everything that may be risky.

Destroy documents with the last four digits of your Social Security Number

In many instances, students may feel peace of mind leaving around a document with only the last four digits of their social security number exposed. After all, isn't that why they X out the other numbers? But in fact, according to Steven Weisman author of "Identity Theft Alert" it is relatively easy to acquire the remaining numbers if a thief has the last four. Weisman states that if a fraudster knows your state and date of birth and the last four of your Social, he's in business. "If it's a sophisticated criminal, that's all they need." Make sure your student never reveals any confidential information, even the last four digits of their social security number, to anyone over the phone and to keep their dorm paper shredder handy to destroy documents that contain even this tiny bit of confidential information.

How Identity Theft Can Impact a College Student

More than having a financial impact, identity theft can also affect a college student's reputation. In a recent case, a Georgia college student was detained by police on campus for outstanding warrants for her arrest. An identity thief had acquired her personal information through college records, assumed her identity and proceeded to commit crimes under her name.

College Student Stolen Identity

Is your College Managing Student Records Properly to Protect Identity?

Colleges maintain confidential records to update transcripts, process financial assistance paperwork and prepare tax reports. Student records have information that identity thieves seek including social security numbers, dates of birth and addresses. During orientation, students should ask about the university's data management policies. Students and parents should express concern if they are uncomfortable with a college's data security.

A university data management policy should include:

  • Records are completely destroyed by shredding when they are no longer needed
  • Access to data is on a need-to-know basis for a limited number of authorized people with background checks revealing no criminal history
  • Records are stored in a locked container/room
  • Multiple forms of identification are required to release your information
  • Release of data is entered in a log for auditing purposes
  • Data should not be removed from the secured area on laptops, thumb drives or any other removable storage media. The data must be encrypted if it is absolutely necessary to transport data outside of the secured environment
  • Social security numbers are not used as student IDs
  • SSNs are not requested on forms unless absolutely required. Consider using unique student ID instead
  • SSNs and other sensitive information are not spoken loud enough for others to hear


See also

Shredding for Identity Theft Protection

Shredding for a Healthcare Practice

Confidential Shredding