Home > 2013 > Identity Theft

The ABCs of Back-to-School Identity Theft Protection

Advertiser Disclosure Comments 0 Comments

Parents, add this to your back-to-school shopping list: identity theft protection tips and supplies.

It’s that hectic time of year again when you’re repeatedly asked to share your child’s personal information for school registration, sports sign-up forms and dorm move-ins.

But you may be exposing your child to fraud when you’re filling out those forms. Every year, nearly 500,000 children under the age of 18 fall victim to identity theft. Identity thieves often target kids because they have pristine credit profiles and dormant Social Security numbers (SSNs).

Before providing sensitive data to schools, daycare centers, sports programs, activity clubs, doctors’ offices and libraries, ask how the information will be used, stored, disposed and accessed. You may be surprised to find that “required” information isn’t so necessary after all.

Here are some tips to protect your school-age children.

  • Daycare and preschool. Some organizations may ask for a Social Security number and birth date before allowing your child to participate. Always ask how necessary that information really is. They may be satisfied with a month and year for a birth date or a pediatrician’s phone number instead of a medical ID number. Don’t underestimate the power of selective forgetfulness—“Gee, I don’t have that information with me.” Chances are, you won’t be asked for it later.
  • Sports. You’re sitting on the bleachers at your child’s sports practice and a clipboard of signup information is making its way through the stands. Do you know the parents who will see your information as it’s passed along? And who will use the information once it’s collected? Many organizations perform meticulous background checks on their staff and volunteers. Others don’t. You can’t control where that sheet of paper will end up once it reaches the end of the bleachers. If in doubt, write “Information to come” and ask after practice.
  • New school enrollment. Many kids need booster vaccinations for kindergarten and middle school. That may mean a trip to a new healthcare provider. Some doctor’s offices still ask for patients’ Social Security numbers even though they track them with some other ID number. Unless it’s needed to bill insurance, skip it.
  • College. Students ages 18 to 24 face the highest risk of identity theft. They often live in dorms or share apartments where others can access their belongings. Before they head back to campus, equip your college students with the right tools and habits:
  • Buy a cross-cut shredder. Shred preapproved credit offers. Dumpster-diving is an epidemic on campuses because thieves know most students throw these offers away unopened.
  • Use a safe. Lock up important papers like student loan and enrollment documents so they won’t be left lying around where anyone could see them.
  • Review bank statements. It’s an early tip-off to identity fraud, yet only about one-third of college students balance their checkbooks.
  • Protect your computer. Even if you think you can trust your roommate, the same might not be true for the roommate’s friends or classmates. Use strong alphanumeric passwords with combinations of special characters and capitalization and update security software.
  • Use secure mail boxes for outgoing mail. Use secure U.S. Postal Service drop boxes, instead.
  • Don’t store login information on cell phones. If your phone is lost, contact your provider immediately.

Image: iStockphoto

Comments on articles and responses to those comments are not provided or commissioned by a bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by a bank advertiser. It is not a bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

Please note that our comments are moderated, so it may take a little time before you see them on the page. Thanks for your patience.

Certain credit cards and other financial products mentioned in this and other articles on Credit.com News & Advice may also be offered through Credit.com product pages, and Credit.com will be compensated if our users apply for and ultimately sign up for any of these cards or products. However, this relationship does not result in any preferential editorial treatment.

Hello, Reader!

Thanks for checking out Credit.com. We hope you find the site and the journalism we produce useful. We wanted to take some time to tell you a bit about ourselves.

Our People

The Credit.com editorial team is staffed by a team of editors and reporters, each with many years of financial reporting experience. We’ve worked for places like the New York Times, American Banker, Frontline, TheStreet.com, Business Insider, ABC News, NBC News, CNBC and many others. We also employ a few freelancers and more than 50 contributors (these are typically subject matter experts from the worlds of finance, academia, politics, business and elsewhere).

Our Reporting

We take great pains to ensure that the articles, video and graphics you see on Credit.com are thoroughly reported and fact-checked. Each story is read by two separate editors, and we adhere to the highest editorial standards. We’re not perfect, however, and if you see something that you think is wrong, please email us at editorial team [at] credit [dot] com,

The Credit.com editorial team is committed to providing our readers and viewers with sound, well-reported and understandable information designed to inform and empower. We won’t tell you what to do. We will, however, do our best to explain the consequences of various actions, thereby arming you with the information you need to make decisions that are in your best interests. We also write about things relating to money and finance we think are interesting and want to share.

In addition to appearing on Credit.com, our articles are syndicated to dozens of other news sites. We have more than 100 partners, including MSN, ABC News, CBS News, Yahoo, Marketwatch, Scripps, Money Magazine and many others. This network operates similarly to the Associated Press or Reuters, except we focus almost exclusively on issues relating to personal finance. These are not advertorial or paid placements, rather we provide these articles to our partners in most cases for free. These relationships create more awareness of Credit.com in general and they result in more traffic to us as well.

Our Business Model

Credit.com’s journalism is largely supported by an e-commerce business model. Rather than rely on revenue from display ad impressions, Credit.com maintains a financial marketplace separate from its editorial pages. When someone navigates to those pages, and applies for a credit card, for example, Credit.com will get paid what is essentially a finder’s fee if that person ends up getting the card. That doesn’t mean, however, that our editorial decisions are informed by the products available in our marketplace. The editorial team chooses what to write about and how to write about it independently of the decisions and priorities of the business side of the company. In fact, we maintain a strict and important firewall between the editorial and business departments. Our mission as journalists is to serve the reader, not the advertiser. In that sense, we are no different from any other news organization that is supported by ad revenue.

Visitors to Credit.com are also able to register for a free Credit.com account, which gives them access to a tool called The Credit Report Card. This tool provides users with two free credit scores and a breakdown of the information in their Experian credit report, updated twice monthly. Again, this tool is entirely free, and we mention that frequently in our articles, because we think that it’s a good thing for users to have access to data like this. Separate from its educational value, there is also a business angle to the Credit Report Card. Registered users can be matched with products and services for which they are most likely to qualify. In other words, if you register and you find that your credit is less than stellar, Credit.com won’t recommend a high-end platinum credit card that requires an excellent credit score You’d likely get rejected, and that’s no good for you or Credit.com. You’d be no closer to getting a product you need, there’d be a wasted inquiry on your credit report, and Credit.com wouldn’t get paid. These are essentially what are commonly referred to as "targeted ads" in the world of the Internet. Despite all of this, however, even if you never apply for any product, the Credit Report Card will remain free, and none of this will impact how the editorial team reports on credit and credit scores.

Our Owners

Credit.com is owned by Progrexion Holdings Inc. which is the owner and administrator of a number of business related to credit and credit repair, including CreditRepair.com, and eFolks. In addition, Progrexion also provides services to Lexington Law Firm as a third party provider. Despite being owned by Progrexion, it is not the role of the Credit.com editorial team to advocate the use of the company’s other services. In articles, reporters may mention credit repair as an option, for example, but we’ll also be sure to note the various alternatives to that service. Furthermore, you may see ads for credit repair services on Credit.com, but the editorial team isn’t responsible for the creation or implementation of those ads, anymore than reporters for the New York Times or Washington Post are responsible for the ads on their sites.

Your Stories

Lastly, much of what we do is informed by our own experiences as well as the experiences of our readers. We want to tell your stories if you’re interested in sharing them. Please email us at story ideas [at] credit [dot] com with ideas or visit us on Facebook or Twitter.

Thanks for stopping by.

- The Credit.com Editorial Team