College can impact insurance, ID security

Posted at 7 p.m. on August 22, 2017

The Brillion News

MADISONIt is critical that parents check their insurance policies before sending their children back to college – that according to an insurance company executive.

With tuition fees, books and meal plans, some families don’t consider the new risks that heading to college can create. The risks include loss of personal property without adequate coverage, liability and identity theft.

Alicia Lyles, Midwest Field Vice President for AAA, said families sending a student off to college need to consider how it could affect their insurance coverage.

If a student is attending school 100 miles or more away from home and will not take a vehicle with him, the family may be able to list him as an “occasional driver” with the insurance company and save money. AAA said that if a student does take his or her vehicle to college and is shuttling others to and from their hometown on a regular basis, the family is open to a greater liability risk.

“It is in the parent’s interest to review the bodily injury limits on the auto policy and even consider an umbrella policy,” said Lyles.

Many homeowners’ policies will cover a child’s personal belongings while at college if damaged by fire, water, or other perils named in the policy. However, they need to consider the limitations of the policy and if that will be enough to replace what was damaged.

A homeowners’ policy will likely cover a student living in a dorm, but AAA suggests that students who rent off-campus housing consider renters insurance.

“Renters insurance is an affordable way to protect personal property when students are living away from home,” Lyles said.

Most college students take valuable resources to campus with them, and are attractive targets for thieves.

“Dorm rooms can be a treasure trove for thieves due to the number of electronics – like laptops, tablets, smartphones and gaming systems – that are kept there,” Lyles said.

The U.S. Department of Education’s Campus Safety and Security study showed that out of 36,000 criminal offences on 11,000 campuses in 2015, burglary and motor vehicle theft counted for more than half of all (52%) crimes. Parents should review their policy to see what is covered and add additional limits for specific items, like expensive laptops or musical instruments, if needed.

Some students also fall victim to identity fraud, creating significant risk. Identity theft protection should be considered.

AAA offered these tips to help keep a student safe while away at college:

  1. Create a “dorm inventory,” with photos, of all valuable items that will be in the dorm. Save a copy electronically and leave the other copy at home.

  2. Leave valuable or irreplaceable items at home.

  3. Always lock the dorm room door.

  4. Never leave belongings unattended anywhere on campus.

  5. Refrain from social media postings about valuables.

Consumer Reports also has some suggestions to prevent identity theft at college:

Dorm rooms are notoriously open to many people, some of whom will go through your papers for personal information such as bank account numbers, credit card numbers or Social Security numbers. Leave your important documents, such as your Social Security card and birth certificate, with your parents.

Secure your electronic devices. Encrypt all data on your devices and don’t store personal information on your laptop or smartphone. Keep all of your electronic devices locked when not in use.

Do not “over-share” on social media. Adjust the privacy settings to make it more difficult for people you don’t know to view your information or post material on your pages.

Limit use of public WiFi. College campuses have many public hotspots, which data thieves use to steal personal information. Never shop, check your bank balance or log in to your credit accounts while on a public connection.

Strengthen your passwords. Customize your password for each account and make them a combination of small letters, capital letters and symbols and numbers.

Ignore credit card offers. Shred mailed solicitations, which someone could fill out in your name. Take yourself off marketing lists for pre-approved credit cards at www.optoutprescreen.com.

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