Individuals ages 29 and younger represent 26 percent of all ID-theft victims. And as the back-to-school season revs up and students in this age bracket begin registering and enrolling in classes, completing health forms and sharing emergency contacts, ID-theft criminals are ramping up efforts to steal personal information.
According to the Federal Trade Commission, 6 percent of identity-theft complaints involve victims who are 19 years old and younger. Another 20 percent of complaints involve victims who range in age from 20 to 29, a demographic that includes those who are entering college or are new to the workforce. Those percentages mean that some 786,000 people 19 years old and younger and 2.6 million 20- to 29-year-olds will become identity-theft victims each year. Pretty scary.
And it’s not just school forms. From childhood to early adulthood, young people apply for their first summer jobs, driver’s licenses, financial aid, credit cards and cellphone accounts. During these years, they will be sharing all the information that ID-theft criminals are looking for.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. The worst part of child ID theft is that it can go undetected for years, say, until a young person applies for his or her first summer job or driver’s license.
Here’s what I recommend to family members, employee groups and youth audiences when I present my MKIDSS program (Merchants Kids Identity Safety and Security) to protect and prevent.
• Identify 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, through the mail or by e-mail, that ask for personal information. Look for terms like “personally identifiable information,” “directory information” and “opt out.” Before you reveal any personal information, 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 the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. This law protects the privacy of student education records and gives the right to inspect and review education records and consent to the disclosure of personal information.
• Ask the school about its directory-information policy. Student directory information can include name, address, date of birth, telephone number, e-mail address and photo.
• Ask for a copy of the school’s policy on surveys. The Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment gives you the right to see surveys and instructional materials before they are distributed to students.
• Take action if the school experiences a data breach. Talk with teachers, staff or administrators about their response to the incident and their best practices to safeguard your child’s information to ensure that no further information is compromised.
• Finally, avoid risky or unwitting behavior and ensure the same for children using the Internet, including such websites or applications as Formspring, Tumblr and TextPlus that could create the potential for dangerous interaction ranging from fellow students to child predators.
Mark’s most important: Do your best to get an “A” in ID-theft awareness and prevention before and during the school year.
Mark Pribish is vice president and ID-theft practice leader at Merchants Information Solutions Inc., a national ID-theft and background-screening provider based in Phoenix. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article was originally published on AZcentral.com and republished with the author’s permission.