Kids Off To College? New Risks

Computer Equipment

Your son or daughter probably needs some new, expensive computer equipment. When they were in high school they probably used a desk top computer but they now have a lap top. Lap tops, by the very nature of their portability, are much more susceptible to theft.

But if your child"s lap top is stolen, they probably will need a replacement right away. The college may provide insurance but you should also check into insurance that may be offered by your homeowner insurance provider. Chances are it is more comprehensive and a better value.

Sensitive Financial Information

Identity fraud encompasses a broad range of crimes wherein a perpetrator gains access to information about bank account numbers, passwords and other asset information and uses this it to tap into those accounts and your credit capacity.

Many institutions of higher learning use the social security number as a student ID. Since the social security number is often required as verification of identity or as an account number by itself, it is a gateway for identity fraud.

Social security numbers and other sensitive information may be stored on student lap top computers which increases the damage potential if the laptop is stolen. Additionally precautions need to be taken to keep that information secure; just because the computer is secure from theft doesn"t necessarily mean the information on it is also safe. Log on IDs and passwords should not be shared with others and computers should be in the log off mode when unattended.

Here are some other tips for protecting yourself and your student:

  • Most homeowner policies can include identity fraud coverage. The coverage is inexpensive, especially relative to the extra protection and peace of mind it can provide. Your insurance agent can let you know if it is available.
  • Care should be taken when using email because email is not secure. The way to think about email is like a post card. You expect that people other than an addressee might see what is on a post card and you should expect the same thing of email and use it accordingly.
  • Always check to see if a web site is secure before transacting business or sending information (the web address will begin with "https" instead of "http"; e.g., https://cscoact.com).
  • Consider using a browser with fewer security issues. Internet Explorer has a number of well documented security flaws. Also, criminals tend to target IE because of its broad use. An alternative browser is Mozilla"s Firefox which can be downloaded for free.
  • Don"t leave sensitive information lying around. Employ a "clean desk" policy. Buy and use a shredder. They are inexpensive and can help avoid a lot of heartache in the future.
  • Check your credit card and bank statements when they arrive; always scan for unauthorized transactions.
  • Instead of signing credit or debit cards, write "See photo ID" in the signature space. Cashiers are more likely to ask to see the users drivers license this way.
  • Be aware of phishing scams in which an unsolicited email asks you to link to a site and provide personal information. These sites look just like legitimate sites. Past phishing scams have centered on legitimate sites like eBay, Citibank and Earthlink. Frequently, but not always, the "s" is omitted from the web address (i.e., http://ebay.com not https://ebay.com). Be suspicious of unsolicited emails that suggest your account has been or might be suspended unless you provide social security numbers, IDs and passwords. You can see examples of past phishing scams and can often verify potential scams by checking this site: http://antiphishing.org/phishing_archive.html.
  • If you are victimized don"t wait to report the crime to authorities, your creditors and to your insurance provider. The three major credit bureaus should also be alerted. The Federal Trade Commission has toll-free hotline to general information about identity theft and how to resolve related problems. The number operates Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. - 8 p.m. EST at 877-IDTHEFT. Victims can also file complaints online at www.consumer.gov/idtheft.

Cars Away From Home

Your student may have a car away at school. If the school is out of state and you are providing insurance coverage through your policy, you will probably need to amend your policy to make sure that you are extending the protection you think you are. Even if your student"s vehicle is not garaged out of state it is a good idea to review policy coverage to be sure that no gaps or limitations have been created by the away-at-school situation.

Personal Items on Campus

Your homeowner policy provides some coverage for personal property away from home (generally 10% of the personal property limit - "Coverage C" on your homeowner policy). However, some kinds of property, such computer equipment as noted earlier, may require special insurance protection.

If you student is renting an apartment it may be a good idea to consider a separate renter"s policy as a way to protect possessions and legal liability.

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