Your Child's First Year at College: Prime Target for Identity Theft?

By: Etienne A. Gibbs


If your son or daughter is a recently high school graduate and college freshman, he or she is the ideal target cybercriminals are looking. "Why?" you might ask. For cybercriminals the answer is easy and highly profitable. Recent high school graduates and college freshmen provide extremely lucrative opportunities for the cybercriminals to obtain their personal information. Even before they start their first careers, these graduates and college students may be crippled by identity theft.

According to the Federal Trade Commission, the US government agency charged with monitoring identity thefts and related frauds, identity theft complaints reported to them from 2003 through 2005, nearly 30 percent of victims each year were ages 18 to 29.

And according to Ms Michelle Boykins, spokesperson for the National Crime Prevention Council in Washington, college students are the prime target for these cybercriminals because the students are often just starting to use credit and/or pay bills for the first time.

Colleges of all sizes are working to protect their studentsí identities. Broward Community College, for example, has recently introduced unique personal identification numbers for students, replacing their Social Security numbers. And campuses are including information about identity theft on their Web sites, at orientation, and in special presentations.

The University of Michigan at Ann Arbor lures students to an online quiz of security questions with a chance to win prizes, including iPods. Mr. Paul Howell, Chief Information Technology Security Officer, reported that they are always trying to think of creative and productive ways to engage students.

Further, Mr. Howell advises students to limit the personal information they post online, particularly on social networking sites, such as MySpace and Facebook. Additionally, students should know they can restrict their details or remove themselves from the university's online directory that is available to the worldwide public 24/7.

Although prevention is the best form of protection, there are several steps students can take to protect themselves from cybercriminals. If they suspect that their identities have been stolen, then they are urged to call one of the three major credit-reporting agencies to place a fraud alert on their information. Doing so will enable them to be contacted should an identity thief tries to use their details. Students need only notify one of the credit companies, Equifax, Experian or TransUnion, because the initial company will inform the other two.

Because cyberpredators and other cybercriminals are becoming smarter and more sophisticated in their operations, they are real threats to your personal security and privacy and those of your children. If you use a computer and are connected to the internet, your money, your computer, your family, and your business are all at risk.

These cybercriminals leave you with three choices:

1. Do nothing and hope their attacks, risks, and threats donít occur on your computer.

2. Do research and get training to protect yourself, your family, and your business.

3. Get professional help to lockdown your system from all their attacks, risks, and threats.

Remember: When you say "No!" to hackers and spyware, everyone wins! When you don't, we all lose!

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Etienne A. Gibbs, Internet Safety Advocate, recommends to individuals and small business owners the protection (including free lifetime technical support and $25,000 identity theft insurance and recovery) package he uses. For more information, visit www.SayNotoHackersandSpyware.com/.

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