The FAFSA, short for Free Application for Federal Student Aid, is a long, tedious application students use to apply for federal aid. Unfortunately, the website, run by the U.S. Department of Education, has security concerns you should know about. A recent KrebsOnSecurity blog post details about how FAFSA identity theft is possible.
In this blog post, we will give a high-level overview of the problem and some steps you can take to stay safe from potential FAFSA identity theft.
Thanks to the recent Equifax breach, and many breaches that came before, your name, date of birth and Social Security number are likely for sale on the dark web. Yet that’s all it takes to unlock a boatload of private information on the FAFSA website.
“Anyone who successfully supplies that information on a student who has applied for financial aid through FAFSA then gets to see a virtual colonoscopy of personal information on that individual and their family’s finances — including almost 200 different data elements,” reporter Brian Krebs writes in the KrebsOnSecurity post.
Here’s just a quick sampling of some of the data fields:
- Mailing address
- Telephone number
- Driver’s license number
- Email address
- Adjusted Gross Income
- Parent’s Social Security number/date of birth/Email address
Anyone who is applying for federal student aid, has applied in the past, or has a child who applied should strongly consider taking these three steps:
Get a Free Credit Report
Thanks to the Fair Credit Reporting Act, you can get a free copy of your credit report from each of the three major nationwide credit reporting companies — Experian, Equifax and TransUnion — each year through annualcreditreport.com.
Many experts recommend spacing these out so that you get a report every four months throughout the year. Set a calendar reminder up ahead of time to remind you. You can get a copy of the report delivered instantly online or shipped within a few weeks if requested by mail or phone.
It’s important to continue to monitor your credit — basically, watch it to be sure it’s error free and there are no signs your identity has been stolen. Here are some of the ways you can score free credit monitoring. By all means, we agree you should take advantage of free credit monitoring, but remember monitoring only gets you so far — if you do discover your identity has been stolen, you’ll certainly want someone who can fix the mess, that’s why it’s important to pay for a fully managed identity theft restoration service, which we’ll cover in a second.
Consider a Freeze
Experts recommend identity theft victims place a credit freeze on their credit reports. This, theoretically, will prevent more financial fraud from taking place.
A credit freeze — also known as a security freeze — “lets you restrict access to your credit report, which in turn makes it more difficult for identity thieves to open new accounts in your name. That’s because most creditors need to see your credit report before they approve a new account. If they can’t see your file, they may not extend the credit,” according to a FAQ on the Federal Trade Commission website.
Check out our blog post for detailed instructions on how to initiate a freeze. We even include the phone numbers you can call directly to speak with an associate, bypassing the automated system (you’re welcome!).
Get Protected Today
Identity Restoration services, also sometimes called recovery services, are “designed to help you regain control of your good name and finances after identity theft occurs,” according to the Federal Trade Commission.
LibertyID is an expert provider of identity restoration services. That means if you’re a LibertyID member and your identity is stolen, we will fix it.
Our certified restoration specialists could save you hundreds of hours of work by placing fraud alerts, making all the necessary phone calls, filing the disputes and contacting government agencies, creditors, insurance companies and more.
Even better, there’s no limit to the time or money we will spend restoring your identity to pre-event status.