The “back-to-school” season is a busy, hectic time for students and parents alike. It’s also another opportunity for identity thieves to learn a thing or two, as well: and this new information isn’t the good stuff you read in books.
Last year, over 1 million children were targets of identity theft and fraud, racking up over $540 million in out-of-pocket costs to their families, according to research from Javelin Strategy. Children are often targets of identity thieves because of their clean credit scores and the lack of attention families pay to their minor’s credit report. A criminal could open up a credit card account with your child’s legitimate information and it may go unnoticed for months or years and be incredibly difficult to combat.
The period when students return to school after the summer is busy – and often comes with a number of required forms for registration for classes, extracurricular programs, and transportation. This presents an opportunity for sensitive personal information to be mishandled and misused. You should always feel entitled to ask three questions:
- Is the use of the Social Security number absolutely necessary?
- Are there alternative numbers that can be used?
- How will this information be stored or secured?
While many educators and administrators are amazing at their work, data security may not be top of mind, especially as digital record keeping becomes more prevalent throughout many school districts. Identity thieves have been known to target school and universities in search of the personal data of employees and students.
And if you think that back-to-school risks are for younger students only, think again. Students enrolling or enrolled at colleges and universities face particular risks of their own.
While a credit profile is assigned at the age of 18, most young adults are not as familiar with the implications of their credit score and may not be checking it frequently. Scams have surfaced recently that take advantage of this with fraudulent credit card and apartment leasing applications.
Here are some quick tips to reduce your student’s risk for identity theft:
- Keep Social Security cards locked away and do not send them to school with your student
- For minors, consider creating a credit profile and then freezing it with each of the three credit bureaus.
- College and university level students – especially those in shared living environments – should have a lockbox for personal information and ensure that their computer is secured both physically and with the appropriate password protection.
- Consider providing your child with identity protection, which monitors sensitive personal data on the deep and dark web, the underground digital marketplace for stolen information. If your child is under 18 years old, you’ll receive an alert at the first sign of suspicious activity, and take action quickly to help prevent further fraud from occurring.
It can be hard to know if your child has been a victim of identity theft. If you start receiving credit card offers, collection notices, or a credit profile exists when you search – then you’ll need to take immediate action. Certified identity theft resolution specialists are extraordinarily equipped to help navigate what to do next, including working on your behalf with law enforcement, financial institutions, and the credit bureaus.
Learn more about the American Bar Association Insurance Program's identity theft protection solution, specially designed with protection options for children of all ages, here.
This information is courtesy of Generali Global Assistance, Inc., used with permission. It is intended exclusively for general information only.