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5 Ways to Protect Your Teen from Identity Theft

College Identity Theft Protection Tips

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Shredded financial documents
Photo courtesy of Jonathan Natiuk, Stock.Xchng
Teens and 20somethings are among the most common victims of identity theft for a variety of reasons. So when you’re giving your off-to-college teen the talk on financial responsibility, include these tips on warding off college identity theft:

  1. Your child will be besieged with credit card offers. Emphasize the inadvisability of opening multiple credit lines, of course, but be sure to also talk about trash. You don't have to buy a shredder for the dorm room, but encourage your child to rip up credit card offers so the pre-printed forms cannot be used by someone else masquerading as your kid.

  2. Don't leave a laptop unattended. Ever. Laptops are expensive tools, of course, but from an identity theft perspective, they're also treasure troves of credit card numbers and personal data. Your child should use a password to lock down the virtual desktop, and a cable lock to secure it to his actual desk. Need a potty break at the library? Take the laptop along to the restroom. If your child's laptop is stolen, assume that all his personal data is compromised as well. (Cancel all credit cards and go to Tip #5.)

  3. It's important to balance one's bank account on a regular basis, of course, but your child should also be checking his checking and credit card statements for unauthorized activity every month. Catch fraudulent activity immediately, and some banks will forgive the debt. Let it slide, and it becomes a major problem.

  4. Run an annual credit check to make sure your child - and you - haven’t acquired any clones. You're entitled to one free credit report every 12 months, under the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act. Tell your child to look for unauthorized auto loans, for example, and unfamiliar credit card accounts.

  5. If your child suspects he's become a victim of identity theft, he needs to contact his bank and credit card companies, as well as campus security, immediately. University police will want to know if there's a possible identity theft ring operating on campus. In addition, he should contact any one of the three major credit report companies and get a fraud alert placed on his name and Social Security number. This 90-day alert will prevent anyone opening more unauthorized accounts using his identity. And finally, the U.S. Department of Justice recommends reporting identity theft to the Federal Trade Commission online or by phone 1-877-ID THEFT (877-438-4338), as well.
The links above will take you directly to the appropriate site to request credit reports or file an FTC complaint, but if your child is 18 or over, he - not you - will have to file the paperwork and put in the requests.
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