Don’t make it easy for scam artists to steal your personal information

One thing I learned years ago was to never share my Social Security number and date of birth with anyone on the internet or my cell phone, especially strangers.

That was hammered home for me recently when a Kids & Money reader sought help from me regarding the status of her federal student loans and whether she’d qualify for President Joe Biden’s loan cancellation program.

The kicker: She gave me her date of birth and Social Security number, apparently thinking the personal information would help expedite her request and put her at ease.

I was stunned. Not just because I would be the wrong person to ask for help resolving a borrower’s personal problem, but that the reader shared such key personal information with me in an email.

If I had been an identity thief, it would have been like handing over the keys to the vault, no questions asked.

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Thieves posing as loan providers that can help pay off student loans ask for student IDs, bank account information, credit cards numbers, and Social Security numbers, writes Steve Rosen.


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I’ve written recently about how identity thieves are preying on student loan borrowers seeking to qualify for loan assistance programs. Thieves posing as loan providers that can help pay off student loans ask for student IDs, bank account information, credit cards numbers, and Social Security numbers.

The Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) has seen an uptick in student loan forbearance scams at the outset of the pandemic.

Here are some recommendations from the San Diego-based consumer watchdog on how to stay out of harm’s way:

— Be skeptical of anyone who calls you to help pay off your student loans. Google the name of the loan provider the caller claims to be working for and see if there are any complaints. If you have any doubts, contact your loan provider directly about the inquiry.

— If you receive an email about student loan forgiveness, check the sender’s email address.

— If you provided a scammer with financial information, call your financial institution and close your accounts if needed. Also, call your student loan servicer so they can monitor your account.

— The ITRC also strongly recommends freezing your credit, if you feel you’ve been victimized. A credit freeze restricts access to your credit report, meaning you or others won’t be able to open a new credit account while the freeze is in place. You can also temporarily lift the credit freeze if needing to apply for new credit.

Contact each of the three major credit bureaus — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion — to freeze your credit for free.

— Report student loan forgiveness scams to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at www.IdentityTheft.gov.

As for the reader’s email to me, I responded quickly and directed her to the federal student aid website at https://studentaid.gov/debt-relief/application. Then I hit the delete button.

Questions, comments, column ideas? Send an email to sbrosen1030@gmail.com.

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