Identity theft is the fastest growing crime in America, and young people between the ages of 18-24 are the most likely to be affected. We've compiled a list of tips for you to share with your students to help them protect their personal information, assets, and credit. You can also direct your students to the Federal Trade Commission's identity theft and data security resources.
- Protect personal information such as your full name, birth date, Social Security number, and financial and medical account numbers.
- Be on alert for phone, online, or email scams that ask for any of your personal information. Securely dispose of (e.g., shred) printed materials that contain this type of information.
- Take a few moments to open and read the correspondence you receive so that you can proactively identify invoices or notices for accounts you may not have authorized.
- Review your monthly statements and immediately contact the financial institution, merchant, or health care provider about possible fraudulent charges or discrepancies.
- Use secure Wi-Fi when accessing sensitive information online. Before entering personal information, look for https:// in the site's URL. This helps protect the privacy and integrity of data exchanged online.
- Create strong passwords, use two-step account verification when available, and avoid using the same password on multiple sites.
- Be aware some identity protection services may use deceptive marketing practices to solicit customers. Generally, you can protect your accounts and check your credit statements and reports on your own.
- If you think your Social Security number may have been compromised, putting a security freeze on your credit reports denies new creditors access to your file if anyone (including you) attempts to open new accounts in your name. Keep in mind that freezing/unfreezing your reports may incur a small fee.
- Set up text and/or email alerts for your accounts to automatically inform you when unusual or unauthorized activity may be occurring. You can often set alerts based on the amount charged or a specific number of charges in a 24 hour period.
- The three major credit bureaus—Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion—are required to provide consumers with a free copy of their credit report once per year. For more information, including identity theft and fraud protection tips, go to http://www.annualcreditreport.com.
Becky Davis is a Senior Marketing Associate with Great Lakes, serving schools in Missouri, Mississippi, and Florida. You can reach Becky at (877)215-7693, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Additional information about Great Lakes can be found online at schools.mygreatlakes.org.