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Blog > Data Breach > Your Student’s Data is a Hacker’s Dream
 August 05, 2020

Your Student’s Data is a Hacker’s Dream

Young boy walking & wearing a backpack as a woman holds his hand.

Your minor’s identity could be at risk

When you send your children off to school, you’re sending more with them than lunch. Students of all ages, from kindergarten to college, carry loads of personally identifiable information (PII) too, which cybercriminals see as dollar signs.

Don’t assume that youngsters without bank accounts are safe. The most common reason hackers target children and young adults is because they don’t yet have a detailed credit report in their name, making it easier for thieves to open new lines of credit without anyone noticing.

How, when, and where does personal identifiable information get hacked?

Consider how much of your child’s PII you give out daily. Remember all those files completed for school registration with your child’s Social Security number (SSN), address, and phone number? What about financial aid applications, school lunches, or scholarships? Did you fork over your health insurance data, which could lead to medical identity theft?

Criminals often target an entire school district. Data can also spill from a company that provides district services.

How do I protect my child’s identity?

Take these steps to be proactive and protect your children’s PII:

  • Determine how the school stores PII and keep pushing until you get an answer—preferably in writing.
  • Ask how long the data is retained.
  • If your student utilizes third-party apps for classes or to let parents review progress, ask about opt-out options.
  • Don’t provide all the data the school might seek; some may be frivolous. Don’t freely offer up your child’s SSN, and you’re on the right road toward guarding your child’s privacy and data.
  • If your state offers the option, place a freeze on your child’s credit record so hackers cannot open accounts or take out home mortgages in your 6 year old’s name.

Know your FERPA

It’s irritating but true. Hackers and third parties may seek information about your student.

With this unsettling fact in mind, the U.S. Dept. of Education enforces the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), which was designed to guard student records.

Simply stated, FERPA gives parents the right to opt out of sharing their children’s contact information with third parties—such as schools or other family members.

Public or private school?

You may wonder if one is safer than the other? The unavoidable truth is it makes little difference; hackers want any and all student data, and, historically, educational institutions have been slow to protect it.

College calling?

Students provide buckets of data to higher education institutions, and your college-aged children are a very vulnerable population if their data is stolen. Most have never dealt with data security issues before, and colleges may have trouble alerting them to a breach after they have graduated. In addition to their SSN, date of birth, and other PII, bank account numbers can be exposed since universities prefer direct deposit for refunds or work-study funds.

Every college needs a data retention policy; many are required to have one by law. Be sure you know the policies relevant to your student. It won’t be easy for the institution to track down a student who graduated 20 years ago and a breach notice, if all the institution has, is an old dorm address.

Additional tips to keep your college-bound child’s data secure:

  • Will the data you send to the college or university be encrypted? Don’t send any PII or financial details unless that answer is confirmed.
  • Keep privacy policies and make sure your student’s record includes a permanent mailing address (probably yours).
  • Before college starts and again after graduation, talk to your student about the potential for scams and phishing emails.

Prevent identity scams

Student scams are prevalent because college students and recent grads represent high-value targets. After graduation, students report receiving calls from individuals claiming to be federal student tax collectors. The federal student tax does not exist, but that won’t stop the caller from trying to separate your son or daughter from their money.

Watch for any big red flags. Be extra cautious if something sounds off or seems overly suspicious. Warning signs can be included when the caller demands money by wire or a pre-paid card or they might threaten to get the police involved if you don’t act rapidly. When you get these kinds of calls, hang up.

Protect your identity with IDShield

If your dependent’s accounts get hacked, they could impact credit reports or make it challenging to get student loans, find a home, or buy the first car. Guard their identity as vigilantly as you protect your own.

Find out how IDShield can help protect your family from identity theft.

IDShield is a product of Pre-Paid Legal Services, Inc. d/b/a LegalShield (“LegalShield”). LegalShield provides access to identity theft protection and restoration services. For complete terms, coverage and conditions, please see an identity theft plan. All Licensed Private Investigators are licensed in the state of Oklahoma. This is meant to provide general information and is not intended to provide legal advice, render an opinion, or provide any specific recommendations.


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