Student Identity Theft Hits Close to Home

By Jon Coss, CEO

March 26, 2019

It’s always more impactful when fraud hits close to home and last week that’s exactly what occurred to me.  I woke up Thursday morning to an article in my local paper detailing how fraudsters had stolen 200 report cards from the school district where my children attended school.  This was all part of a large and sophisticated scheme with connections in Russia.

The fraudsters used the students’ identities to create fictitious businesses with names such as “CVS Store” and “Chevran” to mimic legitimate companies.  They then used 119,000 stolen credit card numbers over three years to charge $3.4 million against the fictitious companies.  The companies then transferred the money through a series of shell banks to overseas accounts.

This was pretty scary because of the large size of the scheme and because it hit so close to home.  But some quick Google searches convinced me that this is a fairly common fraud scheme and we’ve seen similar ones in many of the programs we work with.  In fact, Consumer Reports calls students “hot commodities” for thieves because of their limited transaction histories (most don’t bother checking their credit for example) and because of their active social media posting which makes it easier to open accounts in their names.

The lesson in all this?  While many of us watch our own bank statements, credit card transactions, and credit scores for possible fraud, we assume that our children are at low risk for identity theft.  Turns out the opposite is true and we should all be careful to monitor them as well.  It’s just another unfortunate reality in the world we now live in.