Identity Theft; Tips for keeping students safe from it

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As students head back to school, I think it's important to point out one of my earlier blogs to help remind students (and parents) that identity theft protection is an important step to remember when preparing to go off to campus. 

If students are not vigilant in protecting their credit identity they will find more in their future than just a degree. Many of them will destroy their credit rating if they fall victim to an identity theft.  A thief can easily destroy their credit rating and keep them from getting their dream-job regardless of how good their education is.

It is probably no surprise to parents that identity theft continues to be the fastest growing type of fraud. But what may surprise students and parents alike -is that people in the 18 to 29 age range are the fastest growing group of victims. And the number of victims in the under 18 population is growing rapidly. It's not too hard to figure out why. Thieves can use the identity of a child for quite a long time before it's detected. Teens, tweens and young adults are often favorite targets of identity theives. Criminals are becoming much more tech savvy and we need to become much more careful.

Students today have grown up in a digital society. They routinely post their personal information to websites like MySpace and Facebook. Often, they provide far too much information...their full names, addresses, phone numbers, birth dates, pet names and where they like to hang out and what their interests are; leaving them (and their parents) vulnerable to innovative criminals.

A small piece of information that may seem harmless to many can provide an id thief the keys to your life and finances. The more information a thief has, the easier it is for him/her to guess passwords, gain your trust and entice you (or someone close to you) to divulge more personal information. And that can spell big trouble.

Remember that knowledge is power.

Here are some tips (and warnings) to keep in mind and keep you safe;

Always make sure that your computer is up-to-date with the latest software patches, virus protection and firewall is activated.

Be sure your laptop is password protected and don't leave unattended in cars or public places.

Be careful using shared computers.  Shared computers may be infected with a virus or key logging software.  Always delete any personal information and passwords you may have entered into a shared computer. You never know who is going to be using it next.

Buy a shredder and use it. Shred everything, including bank statements, credit card receipts and pre-approved credit card offers. Any personal identifying information is viewed by a thief as gold.

Monitor your credit card statements, bank statements and loan statements. If you are expecting a bill that doesn't come, contact your account holder immediately.

If you're moving, contact all your creditors and update them of your address changes immediately otherwise your statements and credit cards can be delivered to your old address and your address will not be reported accurately to the credit bureaus.

Safeguard your Social Security number, bank account number or credit card numbers and don't provide to just anyone who asks for it through telephone solicitation or email. Just as you secure your cash  -secure your personal information.

Be alert to the latest scams.  Often scams are spread through emails, text or phone messages.  If you receive a notice asking you to call a number provided in text, voice mail or email, don't do it without confirming its validity through your own documentation, phone book or by searching online.

Place either Fraud Alerts or a Credit Freeze on your credit. A credit freeze is different from a fraud alert in a number of ways. A freeze generally stops all access to your credit report, while a fraud alert permits creditors to get your report as long as they take steps to verify your identity. You need to determine which of these protective measures is best for you. Find out more about the differences here. 

Password protect your cell phone. Smart phones should also have their firewall activated. Blackberry's are small hard drives that can be easily hacked.

Review free annual credit reports. Through amendments made to the Fair Credit Reporting Act we are all entitled to free annual credit reports.

 What to Do

If you think you may be a victim of identity theft, contact your creditors, file a police report and contact Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to report what happened. You can call the FTC's ID Theft Hotline-1-877-IDTHEFT (438-4338) or use the FTC's online ID Theft Complaint form. You can find much more information here.  


For more tips and info on social networking also check out this recent blog;

You may enjoy Facebook -but Identity Thieves do too!



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1 Comment

Most parents think it’s crazy to worry about their kid’s credit and financial reputations, but in recent years, children and adolescents have become the fastest growing sector of identity fraud victims.

Sadly, from the time your children receive Social Security numbers, which often happens within days of birth, their personal information needs to be monitored and protected so that they don’t become targets of identity fraud.

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