The average grad student adds another $30,000 of student loan debt to the $25,000 already borrowed for an undergraduate degree. You may be just scraping by and trying to keep expenses low, so if someone manages to steal your credit card information, it can have a devastating effect on your bank account. But you can take steps to protect your belongings and protect yourself from identity theft.

The #1 Crime on Campus

Burglary is the number one crime on many U.S. college campuses, and laptops are among the most commonly stolen items. Your laptop can contain sensitive information that you don’t want others to see. And a computer-savvy thief can retrieve a wealth of information off your laptop and steal your identity. If your identity is stolen, the laptop is going to be the least of your concerns.

Even if you are off-campus, you can become the victim of an opportunistic thief. Besides laptops, cash, credit and debit cards, cell phones, and televisions are also being stolen. A thief may also look for documents that will make stealing your identity easier.

The Rise of Identity Theft

With all the costs associated with grad school, you probably don’t have $631 to spare. That’s the average amount that identity theft will set you back. You are also studying a lot more now than you were as a undergrad student. You don’t have the 33 hours to spare that the average identity theft victim has to waste trying to resolve the issue. Don’t think that identity theft can happen to you? About 8.1 million Americans were victims of identity theft in 2010, and not all those acts were committed by strangers; friends and acquaintances accounted for about 14 percent of identity theft cases.

How Identity Theft Really Happens

How to Avoid Being a Victim

  • Keep your valuables hidden. Don’t just leave items in plain sight inside your car. You also want to make sure that you lock up. What’s the use of hiding your valuables if you forget to lock up your dorm, apartment or car?
  • Keep your computer password protected. Even if you are away for five minutes, your computer should require that you input a password to start using it. You also want to look into security software so that thieves can’t target you online.
  • Insure your valuables. In addition to car insurance, look into renters insurance as well. There’s no sense in investing in an expensive laptop, only to leave it uninsured.
  • Take photographs of your valuables. Snap a photo of the serial number on your laptop and other valuable electronics. Keep these photos on a separate flash drive for easy reference, so that you can prove ownership if they are stolen.
  • Don’t lend people the keys to your dorm or apartment. It’s simply too easy for a person to make copies of your keys.

Thieves know that college campuses are a good place to find laptops, so be aware of your surroundings and pay attention to people who seem like they don’t belong there. Keep your laptop in a carrying case so that you don’t attract unwanted attention. By being alert and exercising common sense, you can minimize the risk of becoming a victim of theft.

How do you protect your valuables? Leave a comment!


Image courtesy of m thierry via Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0).

Lindsey Harper Mac is a professional writer living in the Indianapolis area. She specializes in writing guest posts covering social media and education. Currently, Lindsey is completing work on her master’s degree.