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Summer’s over and we’re quickly settling into the new school year—putting our kids on the bus and trusting in someone else to keep them safe and help them succeed. And that means it’s also time to start worrying.
Did we get them everything they need? Will they get along well with their teachers? Will they make new friends? Will they pass all their exams? Will they become victims of identity theft?
Wait—identity theft? What’s that?
Good question. Identity theft is when a criminal steals someone’s personal information and uses it to assume that person’s identity. The criminal can then commit all kinds of fraud under the assumed identity—from filing tax returns to opening a bank loan to even undergoing medical treatment—before the victim ever finds out.
In an increasingly connected world, we share our personal identifying information (PII) in new and different ways. And your PII is precisely the information thieves need to assume your identity. It includes such things as your Social Security number, driver license number, and birthdate.
Think about how many times you have shared this kind of information, from your employer to your doctor’s office to your bank. Can you trust each of them to safeguard your personal data? Even with the best of intentions, it can get out. It could be as simple as a careless worker leaving an important document in plain sight of a passerby, or as we see regularly in the news, a crime ring hacking into a company’s computer system to steal the PII of thousands—even millions—of customers.
And yes, children can be victims as well. In fact, they can be prime targets, since a child’s PII isn’t regularly used, the crime may not be discovered for years—perhaps when he or she applies for a first job or apartment.
We’ll talk more about children and identity theft in our next post. In the meantime, what can you do to protect yourself and your family?
- Safeguard your personal identifying information. If someone asks for your Social Security number—or that of your child—ask how it will be used and whether it will be shared.
- Use a crosscut shredder to dispose of documents with your personal identifying information.
- Create strong passwords to protect your online accounts
- Monitor your credit card and bank accounts, such as looking for transactions that aren’t yours—and report suspicious transactions, even small ones, immediately.
- Consider using an identity theft protection service, such as LifeLock, that will alert you to potential fraud and help you resolve issues you may encounter.
Identity theft and the ensuing fraud is more than simple credit card theft. It can cause big headaches and take months to sort out. It can also hurt your credit rating and affect your ability to borrow money or get a job. Even with all the other things on your mind this time of year—with the start of school—it’s worth taking some easy steps to protect yourself and your loved ones.
Jaramy Conners is the Corporate Communications Manager at LifeLock.