Vice President and ID Theft Practice Leader
Every year I write an article on how students, parents and teachers can minimize the risk of identity theft.
Last year I wrote on how the risky behavior of students using the Internet, websites, blogs, and applications such as formspring, tumblr, and textplus (please see here) create the potential for dangerous interaction ranging from fellow students and bullying to child predators.
And since, according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the number of reported child identity theft cases in the U.S. has increased by 200% since 2003 - I am motivated to write another article on the dangers of Child ID theft.
That said, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has published a PDF document on Child ID theft called Protecting Your Child's Personal Information at School (please see here) that can be used as a great resource in protecting your child's Personally Identifiable Information (PII).
In "Protecting Your Child's Personal Information at School" - the FTC reminds parents that new school years means completing paperwork like registration forms, health forms, and emergency contact forms that require personal and sensitive information which "in the wrong hands could be used to commit fraud in their child's name."
This also reminded me how parents of middle school students are completing forms for youth sports and club programs - and high school and college students, in addition to sports and club forms, are also completing forms for a driver's license, after-school job application and financial aid application.
The fact is ID Theft criminals are using the Social Security Numbers of children to obtain employment, rent an apartment, open a utility, cell phone, bank account and/or credit card account, or to access government benefits.
What makes this situation worse is that child ID theft can go undetected for years until a child applies for their first job or loan.
The FTC also talks about the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) (please see here) 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, the FTC provides a number of recommendations including:
- Find out who has access to your child's personal information, and verify that the records are kept in a secure location.
- Pay attention to materials sent home with your child, through the mail or by email that asks for personal information. Look for terms like "personally identifiable information," "directory information," and "opt-out." Before you reveal any personal information about your child, find out how it will be used, whether it will be shared, and with whom.
- Read the annual notice schools must distribute that explains your rights under FERPA. This federal law protects the privacy of student education records, and gives you the right to:
- Inspect and review your child's education records
- Consent to the disclosure of personal information in the records
- Ask to correct errors in the records
- 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 teenagers, 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.
With the current shape of the economy, a vacation is something of a luxury, as it can be relatively expensive. As a result, more and more people are taking a "staycation". A "staycation" is when you take time off for a vacation, but stay at home because it is less expensive. You get the benefit of taking time off from work, while either staying in your own home, or perhaps checking into a resort or hotel, and thus not incurring hefty traveling expenses. This type of vacationing can certainly be cheaper on the wallet.
For some people, a staycation is simply not enough. Getting out of town, away from their home, the office, or perhaps even their neighbors, is preferred. They just need to get away from it all. For those types of vacationers, receiving a letter in the mail from an airline informing them that they have won two free plane tickets to a destination of their choosing is a pleasant surprise. Now they only have to pay for the hotel and food - talk about savings! The problem, however, is that this deal is actually a phishing scam, and if they have fallen for it, they are now at risk of identity theft.
According to a recent scam alert from the Better Business Bureau, a rash of letters that seem to originate mostly from the Phoenix area appear to come from legitimate airline companies, which includes American Airlines, complete with legitimate-looking logos. The letters inform the recipient that they have won two free tickets, but that they must call a phone number by a certain date to claim the prize. The recipient is told they must respond within a certain amount of time or they will lose the opportunity.
This entire ordeal is nothing more than a phishing scam where the sender hopes to deceive an unsuspecting individual into providing their Personally Identifiable Information (PII). When the recipient calls the provided phone number, they must disclose sensitive personal information in order to attain the "free" tickets. As with most phishing scams, once the recipient has provided that information, they are now at risk of becoming a victim of identity theft.
You should always be on alert for phishing scams of all types. If you happen to receive a letter informing you that you have won anything without having entered a contest, you should be on high alert. Do not respond by mail, email or telephone to any addresses or phone numbers provided. Call the company in question directly and ask them about the letter you have received. More than likely, the company will have no idea about the letter and may certainly be able to inform you about the letter's authenticity. Does that company even exist, and if so, is it a real airline company or something else altogether?
Criminals are always inventing new scams, and phishing remains a popular one, because people still fall for it every day. People often think that what they receive in the mail must be real, but sadly that is not the case. Stay alert. It is up to you to spot inconsistencies and steer clear of false deals. When you do come across a suspicious deal, report it. By doing so, you can help keep someone else from becoming a victim.
If you believe your identity has been stolen, call 866.SMART68 today.