Identity Theft

Keep Your College Student from Becoming a Victim of Identity Theft

Identity Theft

(Photo Credit: Identity Theft Protection)

Identity theft is the fastest-growing crime in the country, according to the FBI.  College students are especially vulnerable to this type of fraud for a couple reasons: They lack an understanding of how important it is to keep personal information safe, especially in this era of excessive sharing through social media, and because they come with clean credit histories which they are unlikely to monitor.  We have a responsibility to educate our college-age students about identity theft and how to prevent it.

Prevention Tips

  • Tell your children what identity theft is and how it could affect them if they are not careful. It is vital that anyone going away for college has a clear understanding of the issue and the consequences if certain measures are not taken.

  • Despite having a clean credit history, it’s necessary for college students to check their credit regularly. This is a good way to keep an eye out for fraudulent activity and accounts opened in their name.

  • Explain to your children that when shopping online, they must only use secure websites. This must be the rule if they are going to use a bank or credit cards online. The best way to recognize a secure website: There is an “s” on the end of “http.” This provides customers with peace of mind that payment information will be kept confidential.

  • Teach your college students to always use a firewall and a quality antivirus and malware program. This program should be updated regularly to ensure the latest version is being employed and the maximum protection.

  • Consider signing the whole family up for an identity theft protection service such as LifeLock. This is the ideal way to keep personal information secure. Such services monitor their clients’ accounts and offer them fraud alerts, guidance and resources on how to keep personal information safe.

Basic Security Measures

  • Your children should have a secure place to store their Social Security card, personal documents, credit cards and mail.

  • Teach your children to keep their campus apartments or dorm rooms locked to stop people from going through their personal belongings.

  • Invest in a paper shredder. This is the best way to eliminate documents no longer needed.

  • Instruct your college students to create a separate list of all their account information and banks’ phone numbers. This makes it easy to report a card as misplaced or stolen. They should also keep the phone numbers of the three major credit bureaus handy in case anything suspicious happens.

We are responsible for sending our children out in the world armed with good facts about protecting themselves. With these simple tips, we can educate these young adults so they don’t fall prey to identity thieves.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

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Posting & Sharing Your Child’s Photos Online: Etiquette & Safety Risks

Kid's Birthday Party

New parents are eager and enthusiastic to share photos of their precious new bundle of joy with everyone they know.  Prior to our digitally dependent culture, baby photographs were mailed to friends and family.  Your loved ones would open the mailbox and be delighted with a beautiful snapshot of your little one.  Now, with the popularity of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube, the Internet has made it easy, more convenient and cost-effective to share these prized pictures with everyone online.

Keep in mind these etiquette and safety tips while sharing your child’s photos with the digital universe:

  • Avoid identity theft and safety risks by adopting LifeLock protection as an added layer of online security.  Photos can be exploitative material—just as much as credit card information and personal data.  Ensure that your privacy settings on social networking and photo-sharing sites meet your safety expectations.
  • Keep an eye out for a sinister new type of malware customized to target image files, thus exposing people to identity theft, blackmail and fraud (according to Security Watch on PCMag.com).  Known as the Pixsteal-A-Trojan, the malware locates images on infected computers and transfers them to a remote FTP server.  These files include .jpg and .jpeg files, which are commonly used for photos.  Called “virtual burglary,” “remote burglars” can access financial papers and other confidential documents through a single image.
  • The Mercury News mentioned that parents who snap photos with their cell phone should turn off the device’s geo-tracking feature, which records the date and location of a photo. Therefore, when you post your photo online, it’s free of private information that can be traced back to personal details such as your whereabouts.
  • Using a nickname when posting baby pictures online is an added cautionary measure.  Mercury News shares the story of one mom who explains that you just never know who might see the cute pictures of your child online.  In her case, one of her Facebook friends was a registered sex offender.  Since then, she has been very careful about what she posts.  She also asks friends who repost photos of her children on Facebook to please remove them from their pages.
  • Innocent picture tagging can also lead to potential online threats.  Parents who are hosting a birthday party should be sensitive about posting pictures of other children online.  Avoid tagging other children or their parents on Facebook and using real names unless you have permission.
  • Never post any photo online that you wouldn’t want the whole world to see.  The moment a photo is posted on the Internet, you’ve lost control of the hands it falls into.  Despite the most secure privacy settings, copies of your images can be easily shared.  Inform your teens about the dangerous consequences of posting private photos and videos on the Internet.  As an extra safety measure, limit the number of pictures you post.  For instance, share two photos from your child’s birthday party rather than all 60.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison