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Resources > FAFSA > FAFSA Identity Theft—Everything You Need To Know

FAFSA Identity Theft—Everything You Need To Know

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) serves as the gateway to financial assistance for higher education and, as such, has become a prime target for identity thieves. FAFSA identity theft is a serious problem that can have devastating consequences for college students, including financial hardship, academic disruption, damaged credit, and even legal issues. To avoid this, students, parents, and educational institutions should inform themselves about the risks associated with this type of ID fraud and take proactive measures to safeguard their information.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explain how FAFSA identity fraud works, highlight the warning signs to watch out for, and provide actionable steps you can take to protect yourself.

What Is FAFSA Identity Theft?

FAFSA identity theft refers to the unauthorized use of someone’s personal information, such as Social Security number (SSN), name, date of birth, or bank account information, to apply for federal student aid (FSA). Identity thieves can use various tactics to steal your FAFSA information, such as:

  • Phishing scams—Identity thieves send fake emails or text messages that appear to be from the U.S. Department of Education. These messages often contain links that, when followed, take you to a fake website that looks like the real FAFSA website. Once you enter your personal information like SSN and FSA ID on the fake website, the identity thief can easily steal it
  • Malware attacks—Malicious software can be installed on your computer or mobile device through email attachments, infected websites, or unsecured Wi-Fi networks to steal personal information, including your FAFSA data
  • Social engineering—Identity thieves may pose as representatives from financial aid offices or other trusted sources, requesting sensitive information under the guise of verifying your financial aid eligibility
  • Data breaches—These happen when unauthorized individuals access secure databases containing personal information. Cybercriminals may target educational institutions, financial aid offices, or other entities handling FAFSA data. A successful data breach can expose a large number of personal records, providing identity thieves with the information they need

What Are the Warning Signs of FAFSA Identity Theft?

Detecting FAFSA identity theft early is crucial to minimizing its impact. Here are some warning signs that you might be a victim of this type of identity fraud:

Warning SignExplanation
Unexpected FAFSA confirmation emailIf you receive an email confirming a FAFSA application that you didn’t submit, it’s a sign that someone may have used your information to fraudulently apply for financial aid
Unexpected denial of financial aidIf you’re unexpectedly denied financial aid despite meeting eligibility criteria, it could indicate that someone else has applied for aid using your information. Receiving a notification that your financial aid application was rejected because it’s a duplicate also suggests that someone else has applied for financial aid using your FAFSA information
Unauthorized activity on your credit reportIf you notice any student loans or lines of credit that you don’t recognize while reviewing your credit report, this could mean someone opened these using your information
Locked out of your FAFSA accountIf you try to access your FAFSA account and find that your password or other login information has been changed, it could indicate that someone has taken control of your account
Notices of past-due student loans or collectionsReceiving collection notices for student loans that you didn’t apply for is a clear sign that someone may have used your identity to take out fraudulent loans

What To Do if You’re a Victim of FAFSA Identity Theft

If you suspect that you or a member of your family are a victim of FAFSA identity theft, you should take swift and comprehensive action to minimize the potential impact on your financial well-being and academic pursuits. Here are the five steps you should take:

  1. Contact the FSA—Immediately call the FSA at 1-800-4-FED-AID (1-800-433-3243) to report the identity theft. Explain your situation and provide any relevant details. They’ll help you correct any errors on your FAFSA application and prevent further fraudulent activities
  2. File a police report—Visit your local police station and file a report. Obtain a copy of the police report as you may need to show it to other institutions or agencies during the recovery process. This may also be necessary in pursuing legal action against the perpetrators
  3. Report to credit bureaus—Contact one of the three major consumer credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) to place a fraud alert on your credit reports. This will make it more difficult for identity thieves to open new accounts in your name and also prompt creditors to take additional steps to verify your identity before extending credit
  4. File a complaint with the FTC—Report the incident to the FTC through their website or by calling 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357). The FTC provides resources and guidance on dealing with identity theft
  5. Consider seeking legal assistance—If you’ve suffered significant financial losses or legal issues due to identity theft, consider consulting an attorney about your legal rights and options

How To Protect Yourself From FAFSA Identity Theft

While taking quick action is essential in the event of identity fraud, it’s equally important to be proactive and adopt preventative measures to safeguard yourself and your family from FAFSA identity theft. Here are some steps you can take to reduce the risk of becoming a victim:

  1. Use the official FAFSA website
  2. Create strong passwords and enable two-factor authentication
  3. Be cautious about sharing personal information
  4. Freeze credit reports
  5. Invest in an identity theft protection service

Use the Official FAFSA Website

When applying for financial aid, always use the official FAFSA website. Don’t click on links in emails that claim to take you to the FAFSA website—these links may be phishing scams designed to steal your sensitive information. You should also avoid using search engines to find the FAFSA website as identity thieves may create fake sites that resemble the original one to collect personal information from unsuspecting users.

Create Strong Passwords and Enable Two-Factor Authentication

When creating a password for your FAFSA account, use a combination of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols to make it strong and unique. What’s more, avoid using details closely linked to your identity, such as:

  • Your name 
  • Birth date
  • The last four digits of your SSN

Additionally, you should enable two-factor authentication (2FA) in your account. 2FA adds an extra layer of security by requiring you to enter a code sent to your phone, authenticator app, or email in addition to your password, further protecting your account from unauthorized access.

Be Cautious About Sharing Personal Information

You should never share your SSN, FSA ID, or other sensitive information with anyone unless you’re absolutely sure you can trust them. This especially refers to people you meet online or over the phone. Legitimate organizations will never ask for your personal information via email or text message.

Freeze Credit Reports

When you freeze your credit reports, you essentially put up a barrier that restricts potential lenders and creditors from accessing your credit history without your explicit consent. This effectively prevents identity thieves from opening new accounts or lines of credit in your name, shielding you from fraudulent activity and potential financial harm. The best part about it is that you can easily lift the freeze when necessary for legitimate reasons, such as applying for a student loan.

Invest in an Identity Theft Protection Service

Investing in an identity theft protection service is a wise decision that can help you protect yourself and your loved ones from the dangers of FAFSA identity theft. Such services can typically provide credit report monitoring, alerts for suspicious activity, and assistance and insurance in case you become a victim of identity theft. Also, some ID theft protection services like FreeKick offer features specifically designed to monitor for signs of child identity theft, giving your parents extra peace of mind.

If you’re seeking a reliable and trustworthy partner in keeping your family safe from ID theft, check out FreeKick.

FreeKick—The Best Solution for Your Family’s Identity Protection (Coming Soon)

Powered by Austin Capital Bank, FreeKick is an FDIC-insured deposit account designed to provide comprehensive identity monitoring for up to two adults and six children between the ages of 0 and 25. Beyond safeguarding your family’s identities, FreeKick actively assists in establishing a strong credit foundation for young adults.

FreeKick’s ID Monitoring Services

Unsettling statistics show that a child’s identity is stolen every 30 seconds—but FreeKick offers identity protection for both adults and minor children, so you can rest assured your whole family is safe. When you sign up for a FreeKick account, you gain access to the following features and services:

Services for Adult Children and ParentsServices for Minor Children
Credit profile monitoring
SSN monitoring
Dark web monitoring for personal information
Up to $1 million identity theft insurance
Full-service white-glove concierge credit restoration
Lost wallet protection
Court records monitoring
Change of address monitoring
Non-credit (Payday) loan monitoring
Free FICO® Score monthly
FICO® Score factors
Experian credit report monthly
Credit profile monitoring
SSN monitoring
Dark web monitoring for children’s personal information
Up to $1 million identity theft insurance
Full-service white-glove concierge credit restoration
Sex offender monitoring—based on sponsor parent’s address

Parent-Sponsored Credit Building With FreeKick

In addition to ID monitoring for your whole family, FreeKick offers another invaluable service—automated credit building for children aged 13 to 25. Establishing a strong credit history at an early age can unlock numerous benefits for you, including lower interest rates on student loans and favorable insurance premiums, which can save you over $200,000 throughout your lifetime. To get started, follow these three simple steps with the help of your parents:

  1. Create a FreeKick Account—Visit FreeKick.bank and select a preferred plan depending on your family’s needs and budget
  2. Set It and Forget It—After activating the credit building process, FreeKick will create a 12-month credit history for you through a no-interest installment loan that’s paid off with your initial deposit and continue to monitor your credit profile
  3. Keep Growing—Once the 12 month-term elapses, you and your parents can either renew your account to continue building your credit score or close it and get a 100% refund of your initial deposit

FreeKick Pricing

FreeKick offers different plans to suit different family budgets. Both plans include FDIC insurance up to $250,000 and identity monitoring services for up to two adult parents and six children. Check out the table below for more details:

FDIC-Insured Deposit AmountAnnual Fee
$3,000$0 (Free)

Empower your financial future while also safeguarding yourself and your family from the risks of identity theft—sign up for FreeKick today.