Big, busy state universities are hives of anonymity. Surprisingly, grades continue to be publicly posted by Social Security number for almost half of all college students, leaving them vulnerable to identity theft from passing eyes and in serious financial jeopardy, according to the U.S. Department of Education.
Think about it: College students collect billions of dollars in loans and grants. A student’s identity can be used to secure money. College student identity theft puts at risk his or her future financial aid, credit history—even job prospects after graduation.
What can you do to protect against student ID theft? Along with the usual security practices—monitoring your student’s financial statements, requesting credit reports and using difficult, “strong” passwords—here are a few extra tips just for parents and students as they file for aid, from the Department of Education:
- Do not use paid financial aid services that operate over the Internet or telephone. The Department of Education provides its services free and is password-protected. Before using a for-fee financial aid service, visit the official U.S. Federal Student Aid website [Link: http://studentaid.ed.gov/types/scams] for tips on avoiding scams.
- Apply for aid at the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) website. [Link: http://www.fafsa.ed.gov/] After completing the application, remember to log off of the program and to close your browser.
- Do not reveal your FAFSA personal identification number (PIN) to anyone, even if that person is helping you to fill out the form. The only time you should use your PIN is on secure systems.
- Shred receipts and copies of documents with student identity information if they are no longer needed.
- Review your financial aid award documents and keep track of the amount of student aid for which you have applied and have been awarded.
- Don’t hesitate. Once you are a student, you are likely to be required to have a student ID card. Report all lost or stolen student identification immediately.