July 9, 2015

There are many things parents teach their kids before sending them off to college. Protecting their personal information and being aware of identity theft can go overlooked.

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, more than 16 million people were victims of identity theft in 2012, which resulted in more than $24 billion in lost money. Mary Johnson, vice president of financial literacy and student aid policy for Higher One, cautions that certain behaviors lead to students becoming victims of identity theft.

"Living with roommates, making online purchases and communicating through social media channels are just a few of the ways students can leave themselves dangerously open to thieves," she says.

There are ways, however, that colleges and parents can help protect students and minimize the risk of compromising their information. The following tips can help:

 * Avoid carrying personal IDs together. Experts caution to never carry your Social Security information and driver's license in the same purse or wallet.

* Check online banking transactions often. Reconcile your accounts, credit card statements and transactions with your own records -- but never on a public Wi-Fi or cyber-cafe. Institutions like Higher One (www.higherone.com), a financial services company dedicated to helping students reach their goals, offers low-cost and affordable banking services that can help monitor your accounts.

* Learn more. The most important thing about protecting your information is to be proactive about keeping it safe. To this end, organizations like Higher One can help students by educating them on finances, budgeting and money management through its financial literacy program, $tart with Change. Consider this: According to "With Their Whole Lives Ahead of Them," a 2009 study commissioned by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, 54 percent of students surveyed who left college without graduating said they did so because of the stress of having to work and go to school at the same time, while 31 percent cited the cost of tuition and fees as the main reason for dropping out.

* Check your credit report yearly. Credit reports are not just for working adults. College students can receive these reports from the three major credit-reporting agencies by visiting annualcreditreport.com.

Finally, as you continue to build your protection, look for a college or university that offers robust money-management tools and advice to help you build a solid financial foundation.