The rising number of identity theft cases has led many identity theft service providers to launch educational campaigns or provide software at no cost to businesses, individuals and institutions. Under its Student Initiative Program, identity theft services company Identity Finder will allow students to download their prevention program on both Windows and Macs at no cost.
The software educates students on their personal risk for identity theft and the measures they can take to prevent becoming a victim. Currently, Harvard, Cornell, Penn State and a number of other universities utilize the Identity Finder program to thwart data breaches of university-owned computers and protect students' personal information.
"Identity fraud is a challenging problem to solve because there are so many forms of our identities, more places to store them, and the threats that exploit them continue to grow," Identity Finder CEO Todd Feinman said. "We used to just worry about our social security number and the credit card in our wallet, but today we have online usernames and passwords to our bank accounts, electronic healthcare information, and multiple credit and debit card numbers - data often saved or hidden on our computer, in emails, and in web browsers."
Young adults face an increased risk of falling victim to identity theft through the use of social networking sites and peer-to-peer networks to download music and videos. The recent controversy and subsequent data breach involving Facebook and their new privacy protections highlights the importance of limiting the amount of information an individual provides to the public. Peer-to-peer networks - such as Limewire and BitTorrent - also pose a unique danger to individuals because shared files containing personal information can remain online even if the consumer using the device removes it from their records. Once the information is shared with another and becomes stored on their computer, it may be open for the world to see.
The number of Americans affected by identity theft has grown to 11 million. As more personal information is stored online, criminals and scammers have a greater chance of accessing sensitive documents. But consumers can protect themselves by limiting the information they provide online and making sure their computers are equipped with the latest security and anti-virus software. Parents should also talk to their children about using social networking and peer-to-peer networks safely to avoid jeopardizing their data.