Classes are beginning for many students across the Bluegrass this week. Whether they are in elementary school or in college, Better Business Bureau® serving Central & Kentucky warns parents that a student can be a prime target for identity theft.
“Children are especially good targets for ID theft because they have zero credit history and no questionable banking transactions in their history,” said Heather Clary, BBB Director of Communications. “A child can have their ID stolen through their Social Security number and you may not find out about it for years.”
College students can also fall victim to identity theft, especially if they are out on their own for the first time. Living in a dorm or shared house and opening financial accounts such as new credit or debit cards can leave students vulnerable to identity theft if they aren’t mindful of keeping their information secure.
Here are some tips for protecting your child’s identity as they head back to school:
· Students should not carry their Social Security card or number with them. Leave it at home locked in a safe place.
· If a school asks for a Social Security number, ask questions. Why is it needed? Where and how is this information being stored, and who has access to it?
For college students:
· Carry only what is needed in a wallet or purse (driver’s license, credit/debit cards, etc.) Keep close tabs on laptop computers or other devices that may contain sensitive information. Keep anti-virus software up to date. Store personal documents in a safe or lock box. Make sure to shred any documents that contain personal information before throwing them away.
· Send sensitive mail to your parents’ home or a post office box. School mailboxes are not always secure and often can be accessed easily in a dorm or apartment.
· Protect yourself with strong passwords and PINs. Secure all online accounts with strong passwords. Passwords should be long and unique, and don’t use the same password for multiple accounts. Turn on multi-factor authentication if possible. Make sure all your devices are protected by a password. Learn more about password safety at bbb.org/passwords.
· Be careful using public Wi-Fi, you may be exposing yourself to scammers. If you have access to the university/college Wi-Fi system with a log-in, use that as much as possible for additional security. Do NOT check financial accounts online using public Wi-Fi…wait until you have access to a secure system.
· Never lend your credit or debit card to anyone. Just say “no” if your friend wants to borrow your card or asks you to co-sign for a loan or financing for items.
· Stay on top of your credit. For young adults just starting to develop credit reporting activity, checking your credit report is one of the best ways to catch instances of identity theft. In the U.S., you have the right to check your credit report with each of the three credit bureaus once per year at www.annualcreditreport.com.
Consumers may report scams to BBB Scam Tracker at www.bbb.org/scamtracker.