HomeRenters InsuranceWhat you need to know before heading to campus

What you need to know before heading to campus

Aug. 13—WILKES-BARRE — Back in the day, back-to-school preparations included clothes shopping, school supplies shopping and a haircut.

After high school, however, most prep was left up to us, so our clothes were ragged, our hair was longer and a couple notebooks and ink pens were all we felt we needed, not to mention gas in the car.

These days, 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.

AAA says 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 post-secondary 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.

“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/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. 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 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.

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:

—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.

—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

“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.”

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

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 caution with mailed documents. 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.

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.

And oh yeah, don’t forget to study and get to class.

Reach Bill O’Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle.

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