9 Tips to Help Protect Your Students from Identity Theft
Submitted by Dave Bowman, Regional Marketing Director
Great Lakes Educational Loan Services, Inc.
More than 10 million people of all ages, races, and socioeconomic backgrounds fall victim to some type of identity theft each year. The majority of identity theft incidents (85 percent) involve fraudulent use of existing credit card or bank account information. Fraudulent use of personal information to open a new account, however, can cause additional stress by creating financial, credit, and relationship issues.
With existing accounts, financial institutions often discover the fraud and inform victims of the activity. But unauthorized accounts opened fraudulently are frequently not discovered until the victim is contacted by the creditor or receives notice of unpaid invoices.
Anyone with a Social Security number may be targeted for identity theft. Credit reports should not exist for young children. If you find one does, this is a red flag that may indicate fraudulent activity. The Federal Trade Commission recommends checking your child's credit report beginning around age 16, and every six to 12 months until they turn 18.
Even if victims of identity theft don’t experience financial loss from these crimes, fraudulent information and accounts that remain on their credit report may impact interest rates or financial opportunities they may qualify for, costing victims for years to come.
Teaching your students simple, common-sense steps they can take to protect their personal information, assets, and credit score satisfies an essential part of their financial education, and helps to safeguard their financial future. Direct your students to Knowledge Center on mygreatlakes.org, or to the Federal Trade Commission's Consumer Information for additional resources about Identity Theft.
9 Tips to Help You Avoid Identity Theft
- 1. Pay attention to all correspondence you receive to be sure you catch invoices for accounts you may not have authorized.
- 2. Check your financial and health care statements each month for fraudulent charges, and immediately contact the financial institution, merchant, or health care provider about discrepancies.
- 3. Protect personal information such as your full name, birth date, Social Security number, and financial and medical account numbers. Beware of phone, online, or email scams that ask for any of your personal information. Get a shredder and be sure to use it.
- 4. Closely monitor your credit by requesting your free annual credit reports from http://www.annualcreditreport.com. You can order your annual report from each of the three major credit bureausundefinedEquifax, Experian, and TransUnionundefinedat the same time, or you can opt to receive one every four months to review activity more frequently.
- 5. Use secure Wi-fi when accessing sensitive information online. Also be sure to check that the site is secure by looking for "https://" in the site's URL before entering personal information
- 6. Use available two-step account verification and strong passwords, and don't leave passwords where they may be discovered. Don't use the same password for all of your online accounts.
- 7. Avoid paying for identity protection services, which may use deceptive marketing practices. Instead protect your accounts and check your statements and reports on your own.
- 8. If you think your Social Security number may have been compromised, putting a security freeze on your credit reports denies new creditors access to your file if anyone tries to open new accounts in your name. Keep in mind that this includes you, too, unless you contact the bureau.
- 9. Set up text and email alerts for your accounts to inform you when unusual or unauthorized activity may be occurring.
Dave Bowman is a Regional Marketing Director with Great Lakes, serving schools in Tennessee and Kentucky. You can reach Dave at (888) 685-1604, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Additional information about Great Lakes can be found online at schools.mygreatlakes.org.