Who better to impersonate than someone who has no reason to check his or her credit report? That’s why 500,000 children under age 18 are victims of identity theft each year. Because parents are repeatedly asked to share their children’s personal information as they grow up, it’s easy for parents to expose kids to fraud without realizing it. College students, too, are at a high risk for identity theft.
Before filling out forms from schools, daycare centers, sports programs, activity clubs, doctors’ offices, and libraries, Grinnell Mutual and IDentity Theft 911® recommend asking how the information will be used, stored, and disposed of and who has access to it. You may be surprised to find their “required” information isn’t so necessary after all. Check out the age-specific tips listed below to protect your school-aged children.
Preschoolers. Does the school need your child’s Social Security number to let him or her participate in playtime activities? Will a month and year do for a birth date? How about just the pediatrician’s phone number instead of your medical insurance group and ID numbers? Don’t underestimate the power of selective forgetfulness – “Gee, I don’t have that information with me.” Chances are, you won’t be asked for it later.
Lil’ athletes. You’re sitting on the bleachers at your child’s sports practice and a clipboard of signup information is making its way through the stands. Do you know the parents who will see your information as it’s passed along? And who will use the information once it’s collected? Many organizations perform meticulous background checks on their staff and volunteers. Others don’t. You can’t control where that sheet of paper will end up once it reaches the end of the bleachers. If in doubt, write “Information to come” and ask after practice.
New school enrollees. Many kids need booster vaccinations for kindergarten and middle school. That may mean a trip to a new healthcare provider. Some doctor’s offices still ask for patients’ Social Security numbers even though they track them with some other ID number. Unless it’s needed to bill insurance, skip it.
College students. Students ages 18 to 24 face the highest risk of identity theft. They often live in dorms or share apartments where others can access their belongings. Before they head back to campus, equip your college students with the right tools and habits:
• Purchase a cross-cut shredder. Shred preapproved credit offers. Dumpster-diving is an epidemic on campuses because thieves know most students throw these offers away unopened.
• Use a document safe. Lock up important papers like student loan and enrollment documents so they won’t be left lying around where anyone could see them.
• Reconcile bank statements. It’s an early tip-off to identity fraud, yet only about one-third of college students balance their checkbooks.
• Protect your computer. Even if you think you can trust your roommate, the same might not be true for the roommate’s friends or classmates. Use strong alphanumeric passwords with combinations of special characters and capitalization and update security software.
• Avoid open boxes for outgoing mail. Use secure U.S. Postal Service drop boxes, instead.
• Don’t store login information on cell phones. If your phone is lost, contact your provider immediately.
Call us at Pardridge Insurance (8158-758-4447) for more information. Learn more about identity theft and preventive tips at www.gmrc-idtheft.com.