Scammers Go to College
By Beth McCann, Denver DA ~
You and your child have discussed all the potential pitfalls of being away at college. You’ve had the “I know you are an adult now, but I won’t be there to protect you if something goes wrong,” conversation. Hopefully you’ve told them not to leave their beverage unattended at a party, and to memorize the phone numbers of two friends in case they lose their cell phone.
But have you discussed the importance of protecting their identity? Most parents (and children) don’t realize the potential long-lasting harm of losing your identity to scammers and fraudsters. Why is that? First, your child now has the spending power of an adult. Second, young adults are less likely to report ID theft than others and, most importantly, their credit and credit history is virtually a clean slate. And scammers are waiting to get their hands on someone else’s identity.
Recently we learned of an 18 year old who was getting denied college loans. Like most 18 year olds, she assumed her credit was pristine as she hadn’t opened any credit cards, purchased a home, etc. As a result, she hadn’t reviewed her credit history before applying for loans. Unfortunately, a scammer had stolen the young woman’s identity dating back to when she was 15. “Her” credit history was filled with failure to pay for cars, credit cards, making her a risk for college loans. Reports of student loan fraud surged more than 120% from 2016-2017.
Teach your child the old adage, “if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is” (like that 2500 sq foot house for $600/mo) and ‘there’s no such thing as a free lunch’, (like going to a free seminar with dinner included and all they want is your personal information).
With better awareness of identity theft and the avenues by which thieves steal personal identifiable information, more young consumers can work to secure their data. Developing good security habits-like shredding documents and statements, remaining alert about scams and fraud, and avoiding oversharing on social media-will also go a long way toward preventing identity theft. Finally, teach your child to get in the practice of monitoring account statements and requesting credit reports — and the best tip is, lead by example… when was the last time you reviewed your credit history?