When sending your children off to school, you may warn them about walking home alone or talking to strangers, but many parents may completely overlook a safety risk that can damage their children’s financial future. Scammers use inactive Social Security numbers and other personal information to establish fake credit. Most parents don’t think to check their children’s credit reports, so the crime often goes unnoticed for years. When the child comes of age, his or her credit history has been trashed. BBB recommends parents check their children’s credit reports annually, when they are checking their own credit records. This caution includes newborns. Their Social Security numbers are especially valuable to schemers.
Okay, so we covered identity theft for our young students, but what about our college kids? Well, BBB warns that college-age adults are particularly vulnerable to identity theft and related fraudulent crimes. According to the FTC’s Consumer Sentinel Network database, 56,689 consumers between the ages of 20 and 29 fell victim to identity theft in 2011. That number accounts for 23 percent of the total number of identity theft complaints reported last year; the largest out of any 10-year age range.
College-age adults tend to not be as careful with their personal information as they should. Young adults are especially susceptible to friendly fraud — fraud perpetrated by people known to the victim, such as a relative or roommate. This type of identity theft typically occurs when a roommate steals credit card information or credit card statements and offers are negligently thrown away. BBB offers these simple steps college students can take to protect their identity:

· Secure your mail.

· Important documents should be securely stored and disposed of.

· Never loan your credit or debit card to anyone.

· Check your credit and debit card statements frequently.

· Check your credit report at least once a year.

Do you like banking by smartphone? If you do, you are not alone. The Federal Reserve estimates that within the next year, one-third of cell phone users will utilize mobile banking. Safeguarding personal account information will be more important than ever. Most financial institutions now offer various mobile banking services:

Dedicated smartphone apps allow users to perform a range of banking transactions, from depositing a check by taking a picture of it to using built-in GPS hardware to locate nearby ATMs.
Mobile versions of regular banking websites load quickly, offer much of the same functionality and are easier to view on smartphone screens.
Short Message Service or SMS banking allows users to send text messages which a computer reads and responds to automatically. For example, sending the message “BALANCE” will return a text with current account balances.
This sound great but we need to point out a few precautions:

Don’t follow links. Never click on links in unsolicited emails or on unfamiliar websites.
Avoid public networks. Only connect to secure wireless networks when conducting important transactions to avoid unprotected hot-spots.
Only use officially authorized applications.
Keep devices secure. Always lock mobile phones and change pass codes frequently.
This article is brought you by Alan Bligh, Regional Director BBB serving Central, Coastal, Southwest Texas and the Permian Basin.