The Complete University Guide says that simple precautions don’t cost much time or money. Don’t act after the event, or wait until something has been stolen – follow their advice now
Take responsibility for yourself
You cannot always rely on others to look out for your best interests. Make sure your mobile is charged and able to make calls when you go out, in case of an emergency or if you lose the people you are with. Try to leave a pub or club with friends, keep money you need to get home separate so that you don’t spend it, and pre-book a licensed taxi or know the locations of official taxi ranks. Your students’ union should have a list of recommended companies.
Have precautions in place when going out – especially if alone
Know how you will get home, and plan ahead if you’re going somewhere you don’t know. Let someone know where you’re going and when you expect to be back.
If you have to walk alone in the dark, try to avoid badly lit areas, parks, alleyways and underpasses. When alone on public transport, sit near the driver on a bus, and in an occupied carriage on a train or the underground. Avoid using your phone in isolated places, as it can distract you from your surroundings. Carrying a personal alarm with you is a good idea – many men see these as female accessories, but figures show that male students stand a much higher risk of being attacked in the street.
Watch how much you drink
It’s easier to do something risky or foolish when you are drunk, and you’re more likely to lose your belongings. Eat before you drink alcohol, and drink plenty of water to help you not get drunk. Keep track of what and how much you’re drinking. Drinks do get spiked with drugs, so never leave your drink unattended or accept a drink from a stranger.
Register your belongings
If you lose something expensive, registering it beforehand could make the process a lot easier to get it back. Mark your possessions with a UV pen – your student registration number and the initials of your university makes a unique number. Dial *#06# for your unique mobile registration (IMEI) number, this is the first thing police will check for when recovering stolen property. Register your mobile’s IMEI and the serial numbers of your electronic equipment on www.immobilise.com. This is a free UK property register, supported by police forces and used by them, insurers and the second-hand trade. You can also register your bike and other valuable items. In the event of an item being lost or stolen you can register this on the Immobilise website. Contact your network provider to block the phone, same with your bank if you lose your bank card.
Insurance ensures that if something happened, you don’t have to pay a ridiculous amount of money to get your possessions replaced. Over half the students who fall prey to theft and burglary have not got adequate personal belongings cover. Take a look at our advice on insurance.
Make sure your house is secure
Don’t make it easy for a thief to help themselves to your possessions. Make sure outside doors are fitted with a Yale type lock and five lever mortise deadlock. Fit any vulnerable downstairs windows with key-operated locks. Give the impression of being at home by using timer switches on lights and radios, and keep valuables out of sight and in a secure place. Consider secure storage for expensive items if you are leaving these during the holidays.
Be extra wary of your car or bike
Bike: Invest in a good quality bicycle lock and use it. Leave your bike in designated public bike areas that are well-lit, and lock it to something immoveable. Lock it at home too, if you keep it in a garage or halls of residence – around half of bikes stolen are taken from the owner’s home.
In the UK a bicycle is stolen on average every few minutes and it is often difficult for the police to identify the owner. Take a photo of your bike and the frame number.
Car: Immobilise your car whenever you leave it even for a few minutes. Think about where you park. Stealing from vehicles is a major problem and you should routinely remove your CD player and sat nav and store them in a safe place.
Keep personal details safe
Don’t leave yourself vulnerable to identity theft or be casual with your personal details. Keep a safe record of info e.g. driving licence, passport details. Some banks and credit card companies offer a registration service but it is often chargeable. Be suspicious of calls or messages that ask for any personal information, passwords, PIN numbers of account details. Do not give out such information unless you are 100% sure of the validity of the request. Destroy papers carrying bank details, keep your receipts when necessary and destroy them, and destroy old cards by cutting through the chip and magnetic strip. If you lose your card, contact your bank straight away. When you move house or flat, inform all the organisations you deal with of your new address and arrange for the post office to forward on your mail. You don't want a bank statement, new credit card or any other personal mail to be sent to an address you no longer live at, where anyone could take and open your post.
Install security software on laptop
Don’t be naive and assume you would never get hacked. Install security software on your laptop (and desktop computer) and always carry it hidden inside a sports bag rather than in its own obvious case. Nowadays, university IT and learning centres are open around the clock and many students could be leaving these places in the middle of the night.
Check a cash machine for signs of interference before using it. Never accept a stranger’s help when using a cash machine, and be aware of people crowding around you. If you can, draw out money in the day. Never let your bank or credit cards out of sight in shops and restaurants to prevent cloning.
When shopping online, check the website shows a padlock or unbroken key icon. A website with ‘https:’ means it is secure, but if you don't see the final 's' when you come to checkout, stop the transaction immediately. The VeriSignTrust seal means that the website company's identity has been verified and that the website has passed a daily malware scan.