A major resource to help Hawaii students plan for college and a future career could, instead, be responsible for exposing students’ personal information. As many as 70,000 students could be impacted.
Graduation Alliance, which manages University of Hawaii vendor “My Future Hawaii,” detected suspicious activity on its computer server. The “My Future Hawaii” website has been shut down and a cybersecurity firm is investigating the potential data exposure.
“My Future Hawaii” assists students in exploring career and college options and allows students to apply directly to the University of Hawaii. The state Department of Education student information that was potentially exposed includes names, birthdates, gender, race, ethnicity, permanent and mailing addresses, grade level, courses and grades, GPA and Smarter Balanced Assessment scores and proficiency levels.
The student information does not include Social Security numbers, driver’s license, financial or health information, as this information is not included in the site’s application.
While the investigation focuses on the if and who, the Better Business Bureau recommends steps students and parents can take to safeguard a child’s credit information:
• Freeze your child’s credit until they are old enough to use it. Last year’s Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act allows parents to put a free freeze on the credit of children who are under 16 years old. To place a freeze, contact all three credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion;
• Keep the child’s paper and electronic records in a safe location. When disposing of any documentation, make sure you shred the information;
• Do not share your child’s Social Security number unless you know and trust the other party. Request providers such as doctors and dentists use a different identifier;
• Federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) protects student privacy and allows parents to opt-out of sharing contact information with third parties and other families;
• Tell your child to be careful about what information they share on social media. Social media platforms are a target for scammers, as so much pertinent information is shared;
• Request a free credit report from annualcreditreport.com for children 13 and over. If your child is younger than 13, they should not have a file with any of the credit-report agencies. If they do and you did not authorize it, that is a sign of suspicious activity.
In 2017, the Federal Trade Commission reported 14,000 cases of identity theft involving people under the age of 19. Children’s identities appeal to scammers as they could be used for years before being detected. Most people don’t check their children’s credit reports and, many times, identity theft is discovered when the child starts applying for credit.
Applying for college takes less time with the internet, which can be both a blessing and a curse. In addition to watching our credit information, parents need to keep a watchful eye on their child’s information as well.
Roseann Freitas is marketplace manager with the Better Business Bureau, based in Honolulu.