Back to school is cool: But don’t let those school forms burn you

It’s back to school time and many of you may have papers from the school or enrollment cards to fill out. Maybe you are sending a child off to preschool for the first time and need to fill out the admission forms. There sure is a lot of information required but what you might not know is that there is also a great deal of information shared, maybe more than you would like.

Social Security Numbers

Social Security Numbers are not required in order for your child to attend school – any school. Schools may not require the use of your child’s social security number for attendance. According to federal law, social security numbers are not valid forms of identification and cannot be required (remember when you used to write your SSN on checks too?) It’s your decision, but before you fill the form in remember this, every teacher, counselor, administrative official, and office worker in the entire school district has access to that information now.

Don’t just take my word for it, the Social Security Administration shares, “Schools are putting children at risk of identity fraud by obtaining their Social Security numbers when it is not required by law and often unnecessary, the Social Security Administration’s Office of Inspector General has concluded.”

“We believe such practices increase the risk of SSN misuse and unnecessarily subject students to the possibility of identity theft, investigators said in the report, which noted the growing number of identity theft victims who are under the age of 19. “Identity thieves often target children because they have clean credit histories, and their records may be used for years before they realize their identity has been used for criminal activities.”

Name, address, telephone number, date of birth

You have to include this information on your paperwork; however, you are not required to provide a home telephone number. As long as you provide an emergency contact like your cell phone or office number the paper work is complete. Dates of birth are required in order to ensure that every child attending school is meeting the date of birth deadlines.


You may find that there are a great many permission forms that you are signing, such as can your child use the computer, have their picture taken, have their picture used by the school or school district and permission to include your contact information in the class or school directory But did you know that these permissions in many schools extends to providing this information to any parent who calls in and makes the “proper” request. Any parent could call in and request your name, address and telephone number. Maybe they just want to invite your child to a birthday party or maybe they have something else in mind.

In May 2010 a Broward County teacher was sentenced to 5 years in prison for the identity theft of her several of her high school students.

Former Pittsburgh area school teacher Jason Joy was arrested for identity theft this year, of friends, family, and former students and using it to commit eBay fraud.

Children are one of the highest risk groups to be victims of identity theft. This is mainly because it will take so long to figure it out. Your 5 year old could have their information used for identity theft and no one would even know it until he or she applies for student loans or financial aid, credit cards or purchases a car. That’s a long time to have to spend someone else’s money.

Remember, most forms of identity theft and credit card fraud occur as a result of putting bits and pieces of information together to form a whole new identity. Your address can be used to steal your mail and accept credit card offers or simply use an existing credit card by completing the change of address form.

It’s up to you who you want to have your information, so before you check that box “YES” to sharing information to the students, teachers and parents or anyone who asks be sure you want that the convenience of that free student directory is one that won’t cost you a lifetime of debt.

Facebook “dislike” scam

Even loyal Facebook fans usually have a few issues with Facebook. Now there’s something else to “dislike” on Facebook. There’s a malware scam circulating that suckers Facebook users by leading them to believe that they are downloading a “dislike” button.

Facebook recently introduced the “like” feature where Facebook users can give a thumbs up to a post or even comments about a post.

John is back from Iraq. Of course all of his friends “like” this.

Kim delivered healthy twins after a difficult pregnancy. A round of thumbs up please. No doubt everyone will like “like” to hear this.

You can even “like” a local county fair, a green retail store or your pediatric dentist.

Using the “like” button is a popular tool on Facebook and it has proven to be a successful way to promote worthy content or good news.

On the other hand, some people have voiced a desire for a “dislike” button. Maybe you’d like to “dislike” your friend’s bad review of your favorite song or “dislike” a friend’s defense of out of hand little league coach. Maybe you’d like to “dislike,” oh I don’t know, a company responsible for an oil spill.

How does the Facebook dislike button scam work?
Facebook users will get a message that says that a friend has downloaded “the official DISLIKE button. This is followed by a link so you too can have a dislike button. If you accept the app, you basically give this fake Facebook application the ability to access your profile, update your status and post spam messages from your Facebook account.

The malware will now send the message that reeled you in to everyone in your Facebook contacts.
A new twist on this Facebook scam is that you are asked to complete an online survey, which reportedly makes money for the hackers.

No one has ever actually been able to download the “official DISLIKE button” but so far the scam doesn’t appear to harm computers. What it does harm is the trust that a message from a Facebook friend is really a message from a Facebook friend.

How can Facebook fans avoid Facebook scams?
Some scam messages that appear to be from Facebook are such obvious fakes and most people know to avoid them. One of our readers once received a Facebook message from her father in law saying that he really liked the naked photos of her, accompanied by a link where she too could view them. This reader didn’t take the bait, knowing the photos didn’t exist and that her father in law would not have sent this message.
Other Facebook scams are so easy to spot but there are some tell tale signs to watch out for.

* If a post seems uncharacteristic for a Facebook friend, before you wonder what’s up with them, confirm it really is them via another way. Be suspicious of enticing entries like “OMG…” followed something sensational. For some of your friends this may be the norm but use common sense if it isn’t.

* Check out the “via” status under a post and make sure that it makes sense. Most post will read “via Facebook.” On the other hand, an update on Mafia Wars status will say “via Mafia Wars Game.” If the “via” status is different be suspicious and ask yourself if this message would warrant their own application. The dislike button scam tags the source as “the official dislike button.”

Have you been a victim of a Facebook scam? What do you like or dislike about Facebook?

Cell Phone Unlocks Car Doors? True or False? Or not that far away?

You may have seen somewhere on the Internet, received an email message or be told by a helpful friend that should you leave your keys in your car or lock yourself out that there is a quick and easy way to enter your car using your cell phone.  The message online may be something like this;

“Use your cell phone to call someone who has access to your car remote. Hold your cell phone about a foot from the car door and have the person who you called on the phone put your remote near the phone (the one they are using) and push the “unlock” button. Your car door will unlock.”

While this may sound like a handy way to get back into your car quickly and easily (better than banging your cell phone in frustration against your car window for example) it’s actually not true.  In simple terms, the type of signal used to open your car using your Remote Key Entry is not able to be transmitted through a cell phone.  Rumors abound on the internet that in some cases it worked on this person or that person’s car, however, they didn’t realize that they remote devices were still in range of their car.  In most cars the signal can be transmitted in newer cars for up to 300 feet.

Check out this Discovery Channel test drive!

But don’t just take the experts word for it.  After trying it myself on several different makes and models, using different cell phone carriers none of the cars I tried to “test drive” never even got running.  So my suggestion, carry an extra key.

So, if you lock your car keys out it looks like you have to depend on the old fashioned method of getting in by calling for help from a friend, neighbor, a car dealership and sometimes AAA can help, depending on the type of car and keyless entry that you have.

The good news is; that sometime in the future your cell phone may be able to do this.  Right now OnStar has an app available. This is a Google enhanced app that can start your car, turn on the lights or activate the horn as well as remind you of general maintenance your car may need using your iPhone, Droid, or BlackBerry Storm.  Soon OnStar will have this application available to new 2011 Chevrolet, Cadillac, Buick and GMC vehicles.  Now if I could just find my cell phone!

HIPAA: Did You Know Your Health Information Is Protected By Federal Law?

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) provides rights and protections for participants and beneficiaries in group health plans. The Privacy Rule, a federal law, grants consumers rights over health information and promulgates rules and limitations on who can look at and receive personal health information. The Privacy Rule applies to all forms of individuals’ protected health information, whether electronic, written, or oral.

The Security Rule, a Federal law that protects electronic health information, requires HIPAA-covered entities to ensure that electronic protected health information is secure.

Additionally, HIPAA includes protections limiting exclusions for preexisting conditions; prohibits discrimination against employees and dependents based on health status; and allows an opportunity to enroll in a new plan to individuals in certain circumstances. HIPAA may also grant a right to purchase individual coverage if no group health plan coverage is available, and for those who may have exhausted COBRA or other continuation coverage.

You have the right to receive a copy of your health records

You can ask to see and get a copy of your medical records and other health information. In most cases, copies must be provided within 30 days of being requested, though there may be a fee associated with the cost of copying and mailing.

You can ask to have corrections added to your health information

You can ask that any misinformation in your file be corrected, or you may request to add information to an incomplete file. For example, if you and your hospital agree that your file has the wrong result for a test, the hospital must change it. Even if the hospital believes the test result is correct, you still have the right to note your disagreement in your file. In most cases the file should be changed within 60 days of the request to amend or change.

You can receive a notice that tells you how your health information is used and shared

You have the right to know how your health information is being used and shared. Your provider or insurer must give you a notice that tells you exactly how they may use and share your health information. In most cases, you should receive this notice on your first visit to a provider, or in the mail from your health insurer. Additionally, you may request a copy at any time.

You can decide whether to give your permission before your information can be used or shared

Generally speaking, your health information cannot be given to your employer, used or shared for things like sales calls or advertising, or used or shared for many other purposes unless you grant express permission by signing anauthorization form. This authorization form must tell you who will get your information and what the information will be used for.

Who must follow this law?

Most doctors, nurses, pharmacies, hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, and other health care providers. Also required to follow this law are health insurance companies, HMOs, most employer group health plans, and certain government programs such as Medicare and Medicaid.

Who receive and view your health information

To ensure your health information is protected in a way that does not interfere with treatment, your information can be used and shared:

  • For treatment and care coordination;
  • To compensate doctors and hospitals for your health care and help run their businesses;
  • With your family, relatives, friends, or others you identify who are involved with your health care or payment, unless you object;
  • To ensure doctors give good care and nursing homes are clean and safe;
  • To protect the public’s health, such as by reporting when there is a flu outbreak; and
  • For mandatory reports to the police, such as reporting gunshot wounds.

Your health information cannot be used or shared without your written permission unless this law allows it. For example, without your authorization, your provider generally cannot:

  • Give your information to your employer;
  • Use or share your information for marketing or advertising purposes; or
  • Share private notes about your health care.

You may request that your information not be shared

You can ask your provider or health insurer not to share your health information with certain people, groups, or companies, such as with other doctors or nurses in a particular hospital or clinic. However, they do not have to agree to do what you ask.

You have the right to file a complaint

You may file a complaint with your provider or health insurer if you suspect your information was used or shared in a way that is disallowed under the privacy law, or if you feel you were unable to exercise your rights.

Who Is Not Required to Follow These Laws

  • Life insurers;
  • Workers compensation carriers;
  • Most schools and school districts;
  • Many state agencies, for example child protective services;
  • Most law enforcement agencies; and
  • Many municipal offices.

When you make an original visit to a doctor’s office, hospital, or other health care provider, you should be given a copy of your HIPAA rights, which you will be asked to sign. Make sure you read the entire document, and request a copy for your own files.


How to file a complaint


Notice of privacy practices

Summary of HIPAA privacy rule (PDF)

U.S. Department of Labor HIPAA pages

Do you know what a “live check” is? You should!

Picture this: a mysterious loan check arrives in your mailbox. You are not exactly rolling in the dough so the figure of eight thousand dollars immediately catches your eye ($8,000.00). All you have to do is endorse it and deposit it into your bank account. Sounds like a great idea, right?

The mantra of ages is applicable yet again: If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

John (not his real name) received his live check for $8000 and, feeling the economic crunch, deposited the check into Continue reading Do you know what a “live check” is? You should!