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Consumer Archive

Consumer

ID theft Have you checked your kids lately

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McLEAN, Va. (10/16/12)--October is Cyber Security Awareness Month, and experts warn that college students and very young children increasingly are targeted by identity thieves.

College students are at risk for several reasons. Crooks exploit the fact that campuses typically are considered trusted environments by the students, and many students lack financial experience and know-how.

Even more concerning is the extent that young adults overshare personal details on social media. As a result, they're targeted in sophisticated phishing scams where thieves impersonate legitimate financial institutions, companies and organizations to steal login and personal details. Financial accounts are compromised, identities stolen, and credit histories ruined--just as the students are starting their financial lives (USNews.com Oct. 2).

These security tips for college students apply to most consumers and include vigilance and common sense:

  • Keep login details to yourself. If you share passwords with friends and relatives, you've handed over the keys.
  • Treat personal information like cash. Don't post your full address, Social Security number, or date of birth on social media sites. Thieves use those to confirm identities.
  • Vary passwords between accounts. Small changes across accounts to a strong password--containing upper and lower case letters, numbers and symbols--can protect you if one password is compromised.
  • Memorize them. Don't save passwords or personal identification numbers (PINs) online or on your computers or phones.
  • Update security protection. Make this a high priority. Set your security software, operating system, and Web browser protections to update automatically to detect and get rid of malware. Never buy security software in response to unexpected pop-up messages or e-mails, especially messages that claim to have scanned your computer and found malware.
  • Hold on to your wallet. ID theft frequently starts with a lost or stolen wallet.
  • Look for the "s." When shopping or banking online, make sure the website is encrypted; look for "https" at the beginning of the Web address.
Younger children also are at risk. According to the 2012 Child Identity Theft report from AllClear ID, children are 35 times more likely to be victims of identity theft than adults, and the incidence of ID theft among victims age five and younger has doubled since 2011.

The impact of identity theft on a child's life can be devastating, affecting the ability to get a loan, scholarship, apartment, credit card and job. For specific ways to protect your child's identity, search for and download the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) fact sheet, "Safeguard Your Child's Future," at ftc.gov. It contains instructions for checking your child's credit report, placing an initial fraud alert, requesting a credit freeze, and filing a report with the 

FTC.

Arm yourself with additional security tips by visiting ProtectYourIDNow.org, which has guidance for all ages, a quiz, and steps to take if you're a victim. Print "First Steps for Victims" and keep a copy handy.

For more information, read "Be Cautiously Sociable on Social Networking Sites" in the Home & Family Finance Resource Center.