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Be on the Lookout for Student Identity Theft

by Andrew Maisel

The numbers:

Why are children at risk?

Children have unused - and hence unblemished - credit histories. And since they have been unused, most parents never think of monitoring them. That makes them attractive targets to identity thieves.

What type of information would an identity thief need to open up a credit card account in your child's name, or apply for a loan, a tax refund, or for a scholarship? They'd want things like full name, address, birthdate, and social security number. They'd probably also like to know what school, parents names, and maybe sibling names.

This information used to be difficult to obtain. But not in today's world, where much of this is voluntarily posted on social media pages, or available for as little as $1 on the dark web as a result of all those giant database hacks.

Once an identity thief has succeeded in stealing a child's identity, the theft may not be discovered until the real person applies for a loan or a job or tries to rent their first apartment.

What can you do?

  • For K-12 and college students: Be thoughtful about what you share on social media.

  • For HS and college students: always use lockscreen when you leave your computer in a place where someone else could access it

  • For college students: tear up unsolicited credit card offers you receive in the mail, before trashing.

  • For everyone: be careful with your social security number. Do not carry your card in your wallet or purse!

  • Consider freezing your redit records, by contacting the three major credit reporting agencies and telling each of them that you want a "credit freeze" or "security freeze". Doing so will make it very difficult for someone to use your identity to open charge accounts or take out loans in your name. The downside: if/when you do want to take out a loan (for a car or home), or get a new credit card, you will have to temporarily unfreeze your record at one of these agencies. Not a big deal.

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