Mark Pribish

Protecting Your Child's Identity as the 2017-18 School Year Begins

By Mark Pribish
Vice President and ID Theft Practice Leader

According to the Federal Trade Commission's (FTC) 2017 Consumer Sentinel Network Data book – which tracks annual identity theft and fraud statistics – nearly 20 percent of all identity theft victims are age 29 years old or less.

That means that a significant number of high school and college students fall victim to identity theft each year!

In the "old days," most parents were concerned about the physical safety and security of their children at school. Today, however, parents have to be equally concerned about protecting their child's Personally Identifiable Information (PII).

The FTC (https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0040-child-identity-theft) states that a "child's Social Security number can be used by identity thieves to apply for government benefits, open bank and credit card accounts, apply for a loan or utility service, or rent a place to live." They recommend parents contact each of the 3 credit bureaus to see if their child has a credit report. If they do, you can visit http://www.identitytheft.gov to help report and recover your child from identity theft.

The fact is that a new school year means completing paperwork like registration forms, health forms, and emergency contact forms that require personal and sensitive information. This information, in the wrong hands, could be used to commit fraud in your child's name.

A new school year can also mean students are completing sports and club forms along with forms for a driver's license, after-school job applications and financial aid applications.

What makes this situation worse is that child ID theft can go undetected for years until a child applies for their first job, financial aid or auto loan.

The FTC also talks about the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) (https://www2.ed.gov/policy/gen/guid/fpco/ferpa/index.html) which is enforced by the U.S. Department of Education and protects the privacy of student education records. It also gives parents of school-age children the right to opt-out of sharing contact or other directory information with third parties, including other families.

Finally, I have listed below some recommendations for parents to consider with each new school year:

Ask your child's school about its directory information policy. Student directory information can include your child's name, address, and date of birth, telephone number, email address, and photo.

Ask for a copy of your school's policy on surveys. The Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment (PPRA) gives you the right to see surveys and instructional materials before they are distributed to students.

Consider programs that take place at the school but aren't sponsored by the school. Your child may participate in programs, like sports and music activities, that aren't formally sponsored by the school. These programs may have web sites where children are named and pictured. Read the privacy policies of these organizations, and make sure you understand how your child's information will be used and shared.

Take action if your child's school experiences a data breach. Contact the school to learn more. Talk with teachers, staff, or administrators about the incident and their practices. Keep a written record of your conversations. Write a letter to the appropriate administrator, and to the school board, if necessary.

File a complaint. You may file a written complaint with the U.S. Department of Education. Contact the Family Policy Compliance Office, U.S. Department of Education, 400 Maryland Ave., SW, Washington, DC 20202-5920, and keep a copy for your records.

As a parent of two college age students, I know that education is the key to protecting their personal information along with protecting the personal information of your children.


To learn more about these threats and how to protect yourself and your family from Identity Theft, you can read my past newsletters at the Merchants Identity Theft Educational Website at www.idtheftedu.com.


Scam Alert: Watch Out for "Free Wi-Fi" Scams

Internet users' be aware of "Free Wi-Fi" scams!

July 07, 2017

If you are travelling this summer and taking advantage of free Wi-Fi hotspots, double check before connecting your laptop, tablet, or smartphone. Scammers use fake Wi-Fi hotspots to steal personal information and/or gain access to your device.

How the Scam Works:

You are at a coffee shop, airport, hotel lobby, or other public place, and you want to connect to the Wi-Fi. You search for connections and find one nearby. It may be labeled something generic like "Free Public Wi-Fi." This may look harmless, but don't connect. It is really a scam!

Some fake Wi-Fi hotspots claim to be charging a small fee to use the connection. After a user connects, they are prompted to enter credit card information. Of course, this info is shared with the scammer.

In another version, a hacker inserts him or herself between your computer and the Wi-Fi connection. Everything you do online – such as make a purchase or log into an account – is now transmitted through the scammer's computer. This means they can now access any passwords, credit card information, and other data you've entered online.

Protect Yourself From a Wi-Fi Scam:

Here are some suggestions to safely use public Wi-Fi connections:

  • Be sure you are using the correct Wi-Fi connection: If you are in a place that offers free Wi-Fi, verify the name of the connection before joining. Scammers often set up fake hotspots next to real ones.
  • Be careful how you use public Wi-Fi: When using a hotspot to log into an account or make a purchase, be sure the site is fully encrypted (Use "https").
  • Consider using a VPN: If you regularly access public Wi-Fi, use a virtual private network (VPN). VPNs encrypt traffic between your computer and the Internet, even on unsecured networks.
  • Always use antivirus software and a firewall. Protect your computer (and some cell phones) by using anti-virus software and a firewall from a reputable company.
  • Use good password sense: Protect yourself from hacking by using strong passwords and creating a different password for each account.

For More Information:

Check out these tips from the Federal Trade Commission on using public Wi-Fi networks.

Courtesy of the Better Business Bureau - for more information visit http://www.bbb.org/phoenix/news-events/

To find out more about other scams, check out BBB Scam Stopper (bbb.org/scamstopper). To report a scam, go to BBB Scam Tracker (bbb.org/scamtracker).

If you believe your identity has been stolen, call 866.SMART68 today.