OKLAHOMA CITY — 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 Rylie Mansuetti, Public and Government Affairs Manager, AAA Oklahoma.
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 Mansuetti.
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 Mansuetti. “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.”
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 Mansuetti. “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.
Based in New York, Stephen Freeman is a Senior Editor at Trending Insurance News. Previously he has worked for Forbes and The Huffington Post. Steven is a graduate of Risk Management at the University of New York.