In the coming weeks, students across the country are going to experience a major shift in their lives, probably one that is unlike any other developmental milestone they’ve ever faced.
Come June, young people who’ve still had to follow curfews, dress codes, and rules about raising their hand for permission to use the bathroom will suddenly be considered adults.
Whether you’re heading to college or entering the workforce, your life may take a very sharp turn once you hit this milestone. It’s important to be prepared for some of the changes that may be coming your way, especially regarding your financial, medical, and personal identity.
You may have already had a job and a bank account, perhaps even a car loan, but once you finish high school, the dynamic can still shift a little. Your parents might have been joint account holders or co-signers; they may remain on your accounts or you may find yourself with your accounts to be responsible for. Understanding how your financial identity can be put at risk is crucial, especially if you’re going it alone.
Talk to your financial institution about building credit responsibly, but also about protecting your accounts. Your bank account, credit card, loans or any other financial dealings can be susceptible to takeover, and your identity can be used fraudulently to open new lines of credit or accounts. You need to know how to spot the signs of a problem and how to take action to correct it.
Again, this is a time when you may still be on your parents’ health insurance or when you’ll be relying on your own coverage to receive care. But your identifying information can also be used by a thief. If you suddenly receive medical bills or health insurance statements for treatments you never received, prescriptions that aren’t yours or any other related services—whether through your hometown doctor, your student health center or another healthcare provider—contact those offices immediately to report the problem.
Remember, it can be difficult to handle medical identity theft cases because HIPAA privacy laws still cover the person who used your identity. You may need to demonstrate that you were not the person who sought the care and that you are not responsible for any charges or legal fallout from the issue.
Personal Identity Theft
There are many different ways someone can steal and use your identity. New situations like moving into a dorm or apartment, filling out background checks to sign a lease or activate utilities, applying for colleges or jobs and other related scenarios can mean that your identifying information is now in a lot more places than it was when you were a kid. It’s time to understand how your information can be stolen, how to recognize if you might be a victim and what steps to take next. The Identity Theft Resource Center is a great place to start gathering information before a problem comes up, as well as an excellent resource to turn to if something goes wrong.
There’s one more thing to keep in mind as June approaches: if you’re filing a FAFSA application for financial aid to college or technical school, the deadline is June 30. Don’t wait until the last minute, though; if you discover that someone has already filed one in your name, you’ll need time to report the matter and file your legitimate FAFSA in order to avoid missing the opportunity for financial aid consideration. Get your application in quickly so you can have time to address any identity theft problems that possibly arise.
Contact the Identity Theft Resource Center for toll-free, no-cost assistance at (888) 400-5530. For on-the-go assistance, check out the free ID Theft Help App from ITRC.