Defending Yourself Against Fair-Weather Friends

University students, young adults or anyone with roommates are easy targets for “familiar fraud” because of their age, inexperience and the challenges of having friends of friends in their lives. They have little credit history, rarely check their credit reports, and don’t immediately notice a problem. In some cases, the crime comes to light long after the victim has lost touch with the perpetrator—when the victim applies for a car loan or mortgage, or even a job that requires a credit check.

Identity thieves often use shared interests with the victim to instill trust: They feign friendship or romantic interest to gain access to a victim’s room, belongings and even passwords or account numbers.

  1. Be wary of whom you befriend, especially people who ask a lot of questions or try to get to know you too fast.
  2. Be alert. If a roommate starts buying expensive things—computers, new clothes—consider how he or she is paying for them.
  3. Lock doors and drawers. Secure financial documents and personal information.
  4. Don’t reveal too much personal information in person or online.
  5. Never share passwords, credit or ATM cards, or a checkbook with anyone else.
  6. Never apply for credit cards at solicitation tables on campus—the applications and your information are not secure.
  7. Don’t use peer-to-peer software allowing computers to share music or files.
  8. Password-protect computers, encrypt files, and lock up paper files.
  9. Use a crosscut shredder on paperwork with your personal identifiable information.