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The Green Sheet Online Edition

July 10, 2017 • Issue 17:07:01

Summer days drifting away to ... FAFSA forms?

By Don Bush
Kount Inc.

Whether it's due to warm weather, vacations or no school (for kids anyway), people look forward to summer's arrival. Not on anyone's list of favorite summer activities is filling out Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) forms. Yet soon-to-be seniors preparing to apply to college must fill out those pesky forms. Some of your merchant customers are bound to be parents of teens who are doing just that.

Filling out a FAFSA form is daunting – it requires providing Social Security numbers, tax returns, bank statements and more from students and their parents. With several people's personally identifiable information on each form, a database of FAFSA forms is a fraudsters' dream. Indeed, one of the fastest growing areas of data breaches is universities. In 2015, Harvard revealed it had discovered a breach affecting eight schools and administrative organizations. Recently, the IRS discovered fraudsters were using FAFSA forms to automatically populate victims' tax information. If you have client organizations in the higher education or tax service spheres, these developments are of concern to them.

Fraudsters are also taking advantage of the fact that many students have negligible credit history and thus don't monitor their credit to ensure it is protected. This leaves an opportunity for thieves, who use the information collected through FAFSA forms to open credit card and other loan accounts in these students' names – effectively ruining victims' credit before they are out of their teens.

Preventive measures

How can students, parents, universities, tax preparation services, and merchants victimized by criminals using stolen identities mitigate FAFSA fraud? They can advise all those filling out these forms to:

  1. Create a new, strong and secure password for the FAFSA site.
  2. Not share login information with anyone, including officials who may be helping with an application.
  3. Keep documents, tax returns and other sensitive information safe, and use a shredder to dispose of them properly.
  4. Monitor the whole family's accounts regularly (bank accounts, credit scores, etc.)
  5. Sign up for a service that monitors your personal information and alerts you to any change, use or misuse of it.

Safekeeping all documents with sensitive information and consistently checking accounts for fraudulent activity are surefire ways to stay on top of fraud. You can step into an advisory role and do your merchant clients a service by reminding them of this. end of article

Don Bush joined Kount as Director of Marketing in October 2010 and became Vice President of Marketing in December 2012. Previously, he was Director of Marketing at CradlePoint, a leading manufacturer of wireless routing solutions in the mobile broadband industry. Don has worked in several management roles within the technology segment for over 20 years with both hardware/software manufacturers and as a partner in two top technology marketing agencies. He has led products launches and marketing programs for dozens of companies around the world such as Citi, HP, IBM, Kodak, Motorola and Weyerhaeuser, and he co-authored the seminar series, "Common Launch Disasters and How to Avoid Them." Contact Don at don.bush@kount.com or visit www.kount.com.

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