Fraud Complaints, Identity Theft on the Rise; Travelers and College Students Heading Back to Campus Urged to Protect Themselves

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As many people try to get vacation time in before the summer season draws to a close and college students get ready to head back to campus, AAA Mid-Atlantic reminds travelers to protect against identity theft. Spokeswoman Jana Tidwell tells the Talk of Delmarva about an increase in fraud complaints…

Those statistics are from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Tips on how to protect yourself include cleaning out your wallet or purse and only carrying what you absolutely need for the trip, such as your driver’s license, passport and the credit or debit cards you’ll be using, contacting your bank and credit card providers to let them know you’ll be traveling, and enabling two-factor authentication on accounts when given the option to do so. 

Additional Information from AAA Mid-Atlantic:

AAA Checklist for College Students: Insurance, ID Theft and Car Care

What You Need To Know Before Heading to Campus

WILMINGTON, DE – (August 9, 2023) – Whether students are heading off to college for the first time or returning to campus, it’s important for parents to make sure vehicles and other property are adequately covered by insurance and that students know how to guard against theft.

Review insurance coverage
Dorm rooms can be a hot spot for thieves. Just two roommates could have thousands of dollars’ worth of electronics alone―laptops, tablets, smartphones and gaming systems―as well as other items of value in their small living space.

“Whether it is personal possessions or a vehicle, college campuses present risks that differ from home, so it’s important to speak with your insurance provider to be sure your student is properly protected and covered if theft occurs,” said Jana Tidwell, Public and Government Affairs Manager, AAA Mid-Atlantic.

According to findings published in June 2022 by the U.S. Department of Education there were 27,300 crimes on postsecondary education campuses in 2019-2020. Of those reported crimes, 33% were burglaries, 11% were motor vehicle thefts and 3% were robberies. Among the items most stolen from college dorms are electronics, cash and credit/debit cards, bicycles, textbooks, jewelry and clothing. 

College students living away from home should understand they may have limited coverage under their parents’ insurance policies. “Before leaving for college, students and their parents should review their policies and speak to their agents to see what risks and liabilities are covered,” noted Tidwell.

Homeowners and renters insurance tips for students:

  • If you live in a dorm, some personal possessions may be covered under parents’ homeowner’s or renter’s insurance policies. Expensive items, such as electronics, may be subject to coverage limits under a standard homeowner’s policy and some states require a special student endorsement. Review coverage with your agent before heading to campus.
  • If you live off-campus, purchase renter’s insurance to protect you and your belongings. It can also protect you from liability in the event someone is accidentally injured on the property.
  • Leave valuables at home. While some valuable items, such as laptops, are needed on campus, items such as expensive jewelry is best left at home.
  • Create a “dorm inventory.” Create a detailed inventory of all items in your dorm room. In the event you need to file a claim, an up-to-date inventory will make the process easier.
  • Safeguard your items from theft. Always lock your dorm room door and never leave belongings unattended on campus. The library, dining hall and other public places are hot spots for property theft on campus.

Auto insurance tips for students:

  • Coverage may depend on location. If you bring a car to campus and remain on your parents’ policy, coverage likely still applies. If you attend an out-of-state school, make sure your coverage follows you. Students planning to stay away from home year-round should check with their agent to see if they are still covered on their parents’ policy. 
  • Guard against vehicle theft. Never leave your keys in your parked vehicle and never leave it running with the key in it. Lock your car everywhere you park it as well as locking door upon entry. Always park in a well-lit area for both personal safety and theft protection. Keep valuables stowed out of sight.

Protect against identity theft
In addition to ensuring they don’t fall prey to vehicle or property theft, AAA has an additional reminder for college students.

“Students can become targets for ID theft because they don’t have much of a transaction history, making it more difficult to identify unusual activity,” said Tidwell. “Scammers use both low- and high-tech methods for stealing a student’s personal information, from looking over a victim’s shoulder to sending out bogus credit card offers to stealing financial information on shopping sites.”

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ID theft is the most common type of reported fraud, making up about 24% of all fraud complaints.

College-bound students can help guard against identity theft by following these tips:  

  • Monitor your credit. AAA provides ProtectMyID®, the Experian Identity Theft Protection service, as a free benefit to all members. Set up credit card and financial alerts and track your credit score.
  • Guard your numbers. Provide personal information, such as PINs or Social Security numbers, only when absolutely necessary. Avoid carrying your social security card and driver’s license together and refuse to lend your ATM or credit card to anyone.
  • Choose strong passwords. Using a “passphrase” can be more secure than a single password. Use two-factor authentication if available. Be sure to use different passphrases for different accounts or sites.
  • Use caution with mailed documents. Mailboxes for dormitories and campus-area apartments may not be secure. For important transactions that could include personal information, use a permanent address such as your parents’ home or get a post office box.
  • Be sure online payments are secure. Avoid using public Wi-Fi when making an online payment or purchase. Not only does this increase the risk of your confidential information being stolen, but it potentially enables malware to be put on your computer.
  • Be careful on social media. Becoming too comfortable with social media platforms may cause you to give away too much information in your posts, making it easier for thieves to guess your passwords or answer security questions. Set profiles to private and only accept friend requests from people you know.

Keeping up on vehicle maintenance

In addition to reviewing insurance coverage, parents with students heading to college should also address the important subject of vehicle maintenance and repair.

“Frequently, a teen’s vehicle is maintained by parents while living at home, and lessons on proper car care are only discussed briefly,” said Tidwell “Before heading to campus, it is vital that college students fully understand how to independently address their vehicle’s routine maintenance needs.”

AAA offers these vehicle car care tips for parents and college-bound students:

  • Find a trusted repair facility near college for routine or unexpected repairs. AAA.com/repair provides a list of AAA-approved auto repair facilities across the country. Keep the contact information handy
  • Perform regularly scheduled maintenance. Parents should review the vehicle owner’s manual with the student, explain the recommended maintenance schedule and coordinate planned service. Be sure the vehicle is serviced before taking it to school
  • Prepare for roadside emergencies. Parents can provide their student with a AAA membership (can often be added to parent’s membership at no or very low cost) to provide peace-of-mind in case of a dead battery, flat tire or other problem. AAA membership services are available to members no matter whose vehicle they are in―theirs or a friend’s.
  • Keep an emergency kit in the vehicle. Be sure it is well-stocked with a flashlight and extra batteries, jumper cables, first-aid kit, basic tool kit and bottled water. In winter, add a small snow shovel, warm clothes, ice scraper/snow brush, flares or reflective triangles and something for traction such as coarse kitty litter or sand.

AAA Urges Summer Travelers to Protect Against Identity Theft

10 Tips for protecting documents, credit cards and personally identifiable information

WILMINGTON, DE (August 4, 2023) – Given this season of record-breaking travel, AAA is reminding anyone making plans to get away to take every precaution against identity theft, including the protection of personal documents and credit cards that are at increased risk of being lost or stolen.

“Identity theft and related losses have been on the rise in recent years,” said Jana Tidwell, spokesperson for AAA Mid-Atlantic. “Travelers must be vigilant about taking precautions before, during, and after their trips.”

According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), in 2021:

  • Fraud complaints increased almost 20% from the prior year to almost 6 million.
  • ID theft, the most common fraud, made up about 24% of those complaints
  • Financial losses from fraud rose almost 80% from the previous year
  • The majority of identity theft reports came from Millennials and Gen Xers
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Safeguard Your Identity

Identity theft protection is an important way to limit exposure. AAA provides ProtectMyID®, the Experian Identity Theft Protection service, as a FREE benefit to all members.

Here are 10 more tips for minimizing the risk of identity theft:

Before you travel:

  1. Clean out your wallet or purse. Only carry what you absolutely need for the trip, such as your driver’s license, passport and the credit or debit cards you’ll be using.
  2. Contact your bank and credit card providers. Let them know you’ll be traveling to alert them of unusual charges, and they won’t decline your card due to suspected fraudulent activity.
  3. Enable two-factor authentication on accounts when given the option to do so. This provides an extra layer of security.
  4. Make copies of your driver’s license, passport and debit/credit cards. Leave with a trusted friend or family member for easy retrieval should the originals be lost or stolen.
  5. Sign up for identity theft protection. This type of service will monitor your personal information activity and financial accounts and alert you if it detects problems.

During travel:

  1. Don’t put anything of value in checked luggage. Keep the most sensitive documents in a bag tucked under the seat in front of you on a plane, rather than in anything that goes in the overhead bin — and out of your sight.
  2. Lock up important documents. Unless you need them, keep your passport and other documents locked in your hotel safe.
  3. Don’t use public Wi-Fi. Doing so leaves users susceptible to hackers intercepting personal information or implanting malware on a targeted computer or device.
  4. Make sure any websites you visit – at home or abroad – begin with https and not just http. The ‘s’ stands for secure.
  5. Avoid ATMs in remote locations. These devices may have skimmers attached or cameras watching your withdrawal. While it can be impossible to avoid ATM machines on vacation, especially if you’re on a long trip, use them sparingly and try to only use machines connected to a major bank.

Upon your return, closely monitor your bank account, review all credit card transactions and immediately report any suspicious activity.

Visit AAA.com for more information on identity theft protection.

Read more about 8 Mistakes to avoid when using ATMs abroad at AAA.com/TheExtraMile.com.


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