In its annual report earlier this year, the Federal Trade Commission announced that the most vulnerable targets of identity theft are 18-29-year olds. Likewise, the 2007 Identity Fraud Survey Report, released by Javelin Strategy & Research, uncovers similar findings: “Adult victims between the ages of 18 and 24 are least likely to take easy, but important, safeguards such as shredding documents and using antivirus software and firewalls, resulting in more than 5 percent of those surveyed falling victim.”
And Stephen Knighten, a research associate for Javelin Strategy & Research, adds that residence hall life may increase a student’s risk for identity theft: “Oftentimes, you’re in a situation where you probably have a roommate and people coming in and out of your apartment … physical documents tend to sort of sit around, and there are more avenues of access with your roommates’ friends and your friends.”
The Internet Crimes Against Children program last year investigated 2,329 cases of enticement and of predators traveling to meet minors, and 252,000 cases of child pornography. Yet those numbers provide just a glimpse of the activity, since many local police forces are too small to investigate child porn.
“It’s absolutely overwhelming,” says Brad Russ, director of Internet Crimes Against Children’s training and technical assistance program, which trains 1,000 officers each year. “The scope and the scale of the problem far exceeds our capacity.” Intensifying the epidemic is that more than half the world has no laws dealing with child pornography.
And what are some of the other careless acts of college students that leave them vulnerable to identity theft? Here are a few of the ways they might be inviting predators, hackers, and other cybercriminals:
* They setup and use an unsecured wireless network. (Hackers love this because it makes their drive-by hacking that much easier. And not only is the student’ information stolen, but the hacker may add software to turn the student’s computer into a “zombie” computer thereby taking remote control of it. Hint: It only takes a few more moments to create a userid and password for an extra level of protection.)
* They use guests’ computers in the business centers of hotels to enter their personal and/or financial information. (The newest trend for hackers is to hack into these computers so that can secretly record every keystroke and commit other crimes using the student’s information. Hint: If you use courtesy computers at a hotel, make absolutely sure that you are on a safe and secured line. And, taking it a step further, do not enter any personal and financial information unless it is absolutely necessary and this is your only option. See the related story from ABC News’ Good Morning America in the video below.)
* They inhabit social networking sites and let their younger siblings share the site with them. (While social networking sites, like MySpace, and many others, are extremely popular communities where young people innocently engage in countless hours of banal chatter and photo-sharing, unfortunately, these social networking sites have also become the hangouts for child predators, child pornographers, and other cybercriminals. Hint: Putting filtering and monitoring software on kids’ computers provides some protection. Parents, use legitimate software to block Web sites and create a log of visited sites. As parents and guardians, you can monitor a child’s activity from other computers and be notified of violations via E-mail or cell phone.)
* They quickly and without verifying identities add new “friends” to their instant messenger buddy lists. (While it is rewarding to see your buddy list grow with new friends from around the world, be sure that you absolutely know that the new friend is actually who he says he or she is. Many times predators and cybercriminals (male and female) will hide behind pictures of extremely attractive ladies in sexy poses. Hint: Before adding any new friends to your buddy list, take time to read their profile (which may or may not be completed fully), or do further investigation by visiting their website. An incomplete profile should serve as a red flag and raise you level of suspicion.)
It may take a village to raise a child, but in a world of online social networking, decentralized networks and servers, and increasingly tech-savvy child predators, it’s going to take a united effort among government, industry, and families to keep them safe. To protect your child, you need an Internet security team of experts making sure that you, your family, and your business computer are always safe and secure.
The best protection you can have in today’s rapidly changing world of cyber-attacks is to have expert support for all your Internet security needs that will provide technical support without any hassles and without charging you extra fees. It will become even more critical than it is today as time goes on. You need to find your own personal team of experts to rely on. If you ever have a security problem, you will want to have a trusted expert you can call for professional help, without any hassles and extra costs!
Remember: When you say “No!” to hackers and spyware, everyone wins! When you don’t, we all lose.
© MMVII, Etienne A. Gibbs, MSW, The Internet Safety Advocate and Educator