The misuse of student information is now four times the rate of ordinary consumers, as reported by the 2015 Javelin Strategy & Research Identity Fraud Report released last week. While I’ve been ringing the ID theft “alarm bell” for students for years, this new report really puts the risk into perspective.

Javelin’s survey calculated that 12.7 million individuals were victims of identity theft in 2014. The Javelin report highlighted that $16 billion was stolen from consumers, or an average of $1,260 per person. Especially painful in the Javelin report is that student identity theft was related to “familiar fraud,” or what I call “the insider threat,” in which family, friends, roommates, and acquaintances are the hidden risk factor and the victim’s personally identifiable information is stolen to create a new account or take over existing accounts.

“Often people who know you have access to your personal information,” said Al Pascual, director of fraud and security at Javelin. “If they live in the same place, they may have access to information you leave lying around the house, they can intercept phone calls meant for you to verify transactions or that you’ve established a new account,” he said. Most high school students apply for their first job, open a bank account, apply for a driver’s license, make online purchases and apply for financial aid — all of which requires personal information such as a Social Security number, date of birth and home address.

They and their parents should pay close attention to the following guidance:

  • Understand the risks of technology, including cell phones and computers. Social media in particular, websites in general and the use of e-mail are giant access points for hackers to steal information. In today’s digital world, students commonly overshare sensitive personal information such as date of birth, a common credential used for verification, in open and unsecured environments such as social media.
  • Be aware of risks associated with apps and software, as the terms and conditions and privacy settings may allow any information captured by the app to be sold or shared with a third party.
  • College students need to use strong passwords, secure their cell phones and laptops, safeguard their Social Security and student identification numbers, and should never share their credit or debit cards.

College students also need to be alert to the latest scams including pharming, phishing and vishing, or voice phishing. This targets students with fraudulent online job applications asking for a Social Security number and bank account information. In the end, no job ever existed and the scammers have stolen the students’ information.

Mark’s Most Important: Don’t “flunk” ID theft awareness, prevention and protection. By developing good habits at a young age, such as strong passwords and minimizing the amount of personal information you share online, it will help you create a foundation for success long into the future.

Mark Pribish is vice president and ID-theft practice leader at Merchants Information Solutions Inc., an ID theft-background screening company based in Phoenix. Contact him at markpribish@merchantsinfo.com.

This article was originally published on AZcentral.com and republished with the author’s permission.

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