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Back to School: How College Students Can Protect their Identities

So you, or your freshly-minted university student, are headed off to college for the first time. While it's an exciting transition, it's also a time to be aware of the safety and risks of your new surroundings — including those who might be after your identity.

College students are often easy, and highly-coveted, targets of identity theft. Scam artists seek the clean credit record that college students often carry. Meanwhile, students typically are not in the habit of locking up important papers or protecting electronic devices with security codes. Below are some tips to remember to protect yourself, or your loved one, from identity theft while away at school, courtesy of MSN Money.

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—Keep a safe or lock box in your dorm room. Use this to store your passport, student loan details, Social Security card and other important information. You will know where they are and keep them protected.

—Pack a cross-cut shredder, too. Don't be surprised if you are inundated with offers for credit cards. Shred these before you throw them away. Otherwise it's easy for a dumpster diver to find them and take out a credit card himself in your name.

—Go over your bank statements monthly, if not more often. This is the easiest way to see if you are a victim of identity fraud. Yet many people — both college students and everyday adults — neglect this simple task.

—Protect your computer, phone, tablet and other electronics with strong passwords. There's a good chance that many people will go in and out of your dorm room, along with you and your roommate. This includes your new friends, your roommate's new friends, and someone from down the hall who wants to return whatever it is she borrowed last week. You don't know that all these people are trustworthy. Lock up all of your electronics with strong passwords — ideally, those that use letters, numbers, capitalization and special characters — and save yourself the worry.

—Drop off your mail at official U.S. Post Office mail boxes, not in informal boxes or baskets where someone could walk off with your envelope before the postman comes.

—Don't store your passwords or login information on your cell phone. If your phone is lost or stolen, not only do you lose access to all of your accounts, but someone else can get into them. If your phone is missing, file a report immediately with local police.

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