Students need early lesson on identity theft

If you’re an adult, it’s bad enough. If you’re a student, you are more than 50 times as likely to be the target for identity theft.

Sid Kirchheimer, who covers consumer issues for the AARP Bulletin, noted that students “lose more money and take longer to discover their identity theft than any other age group. And with forms, dorms and other threats, a new school year is especially risky.”

In the first half of this year, universities and school districts have exposed 740,000 records, according to the Theft Resource Center.

Kirchheimer warned parents and students to guard their Social Security numbers. Youth soccer leagues and other sports may ask for them, even for children, said Kirchheimer, but there is usually no legal right to ask for it.

Parents should advise their youngsters to not provide information on social media sites. Information such as birth dates shouldn’t be posted. And while posting a pet’s name may seem innocent enough, those names often are used as passwords or the answers to security questions by young children.

Credit cards used by students should be regularly monitored, Kirchheimer advised. Most students don’t bother. If a parent is also listed on the card, he or she can set up an account to monitor the activity.

Here’s a tip: A free credit report — the only free report created by federal law — can be had at www.freecreditreport.com. A credit report can be obtained once a year from the nation’s three credit-rating agencies. Ask for one every four months from a different agency, and you’ll have nearly current credit information free — all year long.

Unsolicited credit cards should be shredded. Paperwork from credit-card companies that is no longer needed for record keeping should also be shredded. To be removed from offers of preapproved credit cards, visit www.optoutprescreen.com.

Parents should tell their children the dangers on clicking on links for free games, music apps, and other lures. Malware and keystroke loggers may hide within. Kirchheimer offers three pointers for parents:

1. Carefully read website addresses. Stay with well-known, trusted names.

2. Type website addresses; don’t simply click on a link provided in an email or on a website.

3. Hover over the link with the mouse pointer. The actual URL for the website should appear. Ignore it if it’s a hodgepodge of numbers and letters, or it doesn’t match the name of the company or person connected with it.

Kirchheimer also reminded parents that a student’s dorm room can be just as vulnerable as their computer. Make sure bank accounts, checkbooks, credit-card statements and other documents are kept in a locked filing cabinet or fire safe. “Ideally,” he added, “sensitive documents, including credit card statements, should be mailed to the parents’ home or a post office box. Dorm and apartment mailboxes may not be secure.”

In other words, before students go off to get an education, make sure they get an education.

— Contact Lonnie Brown at ledgerdatabase@aol.com.

Article source: http://www.theledger.com/article/20150828/NEWS/150829395

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