BBB: College students slowest to catch identity theft, but fastest to act

Young adults aged 18-24 take almost twice as long to discover identity theft than those in other age groups, says a warning from the Denver/Boulder Better Business Bureau to college students.

One key finding in Javelin Strategy's Fraud Survey Report from this year, quoted by the bureau in its warning, states that college-age people were slowest in detecting fraud --- taking up to twice as many days as other affected age groups, and costing them $1,156 on average. The report, based on 2009 figures, shows that identity theft reached an all-time high that year, with the number of identity fraud victims in the United States increased 12 percent to 11.1 million adults -- or 4.8 percent of the U.S. population.

Young adults also rank as least likely to monitor accounts or to use financial institution's programs to detect fraud, the survey says. However, they were also found to be the most likely to take action against personal identity theft fraud once detected -- for example, installing anti-malware software after an attack.

The BBB offers seven tips to college students for identity and fraud protection:

  • Direct sensitive mail to a home address or to a P.O. Box.

  • Shred unwanted credit cards and other financial documents and lock up important IDs such as Social Security cards and passports.

  • Avoid lending credit cards or debit cards to friends.

  • Keep anti-virus software up-to-date on personal computers.

  • Monitor credit card and debit transactions closely so as to recognize any fraudulent activity.

  • Check out a company's reputation through the BBB before shopping online.

  • Evaluate credit reports at least once a year, which can be done free at