October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month and universities all across the nation are hosting events to show support. I recently attended an on-campus event called Stop.Think.Connect. It was here I had the opportunity to hear Kelvin Coleman, Director of State, Local, and Tribal Engagement for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s National Cyber Security Division, speak about cyber threats that can affect us as college students. These threats range from fraud & phishing to cyber bullying, but, according to Coleman, the threat we are the least aware of is identity theft.

While attending the Stop.Think.Connect. campaign I learned that 24 percent of all identity theft complaints are made by college students.

This may not seem like a large amount, but the other numbers may surprise you. Most human beings have a tendency to think nothing bad can happen to them; that they are invincible. However, every three seconds an identity is stolen. This means during the amount of time I spent at this lecture over 2400 identities may have been stolen.

I also learned that identity theft doesn’t just happen to adults; almost 500,000 kids have had their identities stolen.

Coleman shared a story about a family who wanted to adopt a little girl that was two-years-old. They had been going through the adoption process for quite some time and were nearing the end. However, a problem appeared when it came time to finalize. At some point they had managed to give the girl’s personal information to the wrong person. The family is now unable to adopt her at this point in time because someone out there has her social security number. How crazy is that? She is only two and her identity has already been stolen.

Identity theft doesn’t hold prejudice and can happen to any one of us. It’s a topic not many college students look into because we find it boring and think it can’t happen to us, but the sophistication of attacks is increasing. Phishers are now able to mimic college e-mails to make you think the link you are clicking on is safe. Just from that one click they are able to see everything on your computer and can hack into most of your information. Coleman said the Whitehouse has even held conferences dedicated specifically to cyber bullying and cyber predators because threats online are becoming such a problem.

I’m not writing this to scare or worry you, but I was really surprised by the information I learned from attending this lecture. I really benefited from it and I thought you, our CollegeCures readers, could too. The first people who can protect us from identity theft is ourselves so here are some basic tips from the Department of Homeland Security to help with prevention:

  1. Don’t use the same password twice
  2. Choose a password that means something to you and only you
  3. If you have been compromised report it to the Federal Trade Commission
  4. Lock your computer and cell phone
  5. Don’t share personal information without knowing exactly who is on the receiving end

If you would like to learn more about cyber security or the Stop.Think.Connect. campaign you can visit www.dhs.gov/stopthinkconnect.

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