Protecting your high net worth student leaving for college

By: Tegan Broadwater, Founder & COO - Tactical Systems Network, LLC – July 14, 2015

You have inherent trepidation that all parents feel when sending their students away to college. The smallest concerns weigh in, from whether they will interact successfully with others and maintain a scholastic discipline, to their personal safety, despite teenaged ignorance. However, when your student comes from your high net worth family, there is a distinguishing set of concerns that you may loathe, but must address. Your actions will set you apart. Three key actions that will help put your mind at ease are to educate yourself and your student, be communicative and provide intelligent ways for your student to be proactive. There are various means available to achieve the ability to utilize these three keys.

Even though some HNW families strive to maintain a low profile, you must understand that opportunists and criminals often purposefully seek you out to try and gain an advantage. Although when speaking about violence, one may argue that a non-celebrity, low-profile HNW student runs a relatively low risk of being assaulted, their chances are significantly higher than that of lower income targets. Just being aware of that fact puts you and your student in a more advantageous position to recognize and thwart a criminal act.

Teenagers generally do not have the life experience to apply their intuitive skills in threatening situations. Everyone possesses natural intuition, but not all are aware of how best to utilize it. It is not complicated to learn. The trick is to provide awareness training from an experienced security specialist that the teen will respond to. Once they are keenly aware of their intuitive senses and have learned how to “listen” to them, they will be remarkably safer on their own.

Next, it is important to recognize that often manipulators with ill-intent will try to get your student to do things solely to take advantage of their wealth or status by placing them in a compromising position (extortion, pay-offs, leverage). Ulterior-motive dating, parties that feature illegal activity, riding in vehicles alone with these schemers, intentional pregnancy and enticement to do something against school rules can place you and your family in quite an obligatory bind. Know that criminals dedicate themselves full time to locating and executing their crimes on the targets they deem easiest. The model is always COST VS GAIN. Having intuitively engaged students makes them a harder target for these criminals. Seek reputable sources to provide or procure this specific intuition training for you and your family.

Students do not enter college with a nametag and net worth on their shirt. Teaching discretion and non-disclosure of “family business” is key to keeping your student from becoming a target. However, the most common way criminals targeting this demographic locate their potential victims is online. Take time to research what your student’s online footprint looks like and take notice of the people who are engaging them. If you have a security consultant, this is a good thing to task them with. They should have resources to run background checks on persons of interest and communicate concerns directly to you or your student to ensure that everyone is educated and aware. Consultants also provide a separation of animosity from your student when investigating their “friends” online.

Additionally, avoid sending your student to school with extravagant vehicles or equipment that draws undue attention to their family wealth. This does not imply they should not have safe, new vehicles or reliable equipment. I simply contend that by avoiding an ostentatious profile, your student will be safer!  The fewer people know they come from a HNW family – the better.

Communication is crucial and certainly the most challenging for parents, students and consultants. Every family dynamic is different. If you do not have a good plan for communication while your student is experiencing life away from home, it becomes much more difficult to monitor and mentor. If you have a very open relationship and are confident your student will call you in the most sensitive and potentially culpable situations, then you are in a better position than most. The majority of students will learn things the hard way unless they are presented agreeable ways out of those situations that might otherwise get them into trouble.

Many universities have standing security options that can be advantageous. Contact your campus police department or administration office to learn what they have in place. Then have a purposeful discussion about the options described in their provisions with your student or security professional to ensure they are fully aware of these options and understand if, how and when to utilize them.

Some HNW families hire a security professional to sporadically monitor activities of their students and also provide a contact and active response for times when your student may be in some distress. This is often a reasonable idea but only when planned carefully. If you do not garner the trust of your student in terms of how your security team or consultant will be utilized and communicating what they observe, then it will never work. A security professional should be in most communication with the student and coordinate efforts with local or campus law enforcement to ensure the best care and consideration is given. The parent might technically be the client, but the ultimate goal is to decide as a group what information is crucial to share with the parent and what is not. Trust must be established between the parents and the security team and between the security team and your student. With this understanding in place, an arrangement like this can be very effective.

Notably, it is very rarely necessary to assign a full time security detail to shadow your student within their collegiate environment. Security industry best practices dictate that your consultant will do everything they can to provide proactive education, support, communication, and assessment value with the goal of allowing your student to grow and succeed. They also should give the parents assurance that they will not inadvertently cause their student to garner undue attention by the plans set in place. Attracting attention to the student that otherwise did not exist can unnecessarily multiply your concerns. Consult with your family and security professional to determine what is the best way to accomplish your goal; Keeping your student safe, learning and allowing them to successfully grow into an adult while away at college.

When utilizing a security professional to assist you in monitoring and assessing your student’s college experience, I recommend you make certain they execute the following:

  • Risk Assessment of the campus, housing and extracurricular “hang outs”
  • Assessment of travel routes to and from home
  • Evaluation of vehicles and alternate transportation to be used
  • Provide Awareness and Intuition training
  • Provide a crime statistic assessment for the city, college and local area
  • Assess your student’s online footprint 
  • Evaluate and consider any personal dispositions
  • Risk Assessment of familial and/or brand protection needs
  • Provide violent crime and sexual assault education
  • Consider responsive options on campus by both the student and security team
  • Share concerns and coordinate efforts through campus administration and/or campus police

Once these assessments are completed, your family can take the specific information, concerns and recommendations to formulate a plan for your student going forward.

Below is a brief checklist designed to promote healthy conversations that lead to good decisions for you and your student going away to college:

  • Do your student’s friends and roommates provide a positive influence?
  • Will your student utilize his or her own transportation?
    • Will your student utilize transportation that does not attract unwanted attention to their family’s financial status?
    • Ensure your student has knowledge and the means to deal with a vehicle breakdown such as a flat tire.
  • Is your student’s phone, laptop, iPad, etc. GPS enabled?
  • Would your student agree to allow you or your security professional to track their location via their cellphone?
  • Will your student permit you to sign-in to their school online account to monitor grades and scholastic obligations?
  • Review the campus security provisions given to your student.
  • Discuss consequences and concerns about alcohol and drug use.
  • Discuss the risks of discussing family business and wealth status.
  • Discuss the dangers of being involved in unsanctioned Sorority or Fraternity activities.
  • Discuss sexual assault and the extraordinary ways that it can affect accusers, accused, perpetrators and victims.
  • Discuss the use of personal protection devices from Tactical Pens to O.C. Spray or Tasers.

Your concerns as a parent are normal. Remember that your actions will set you apart. Take action by educating yourself and your student, be communicative and provide intelligent ways for your student to be proactive and your HNW student will succeed and learn even in this concerning new world.

About the Author: Tegan Broadwater is the Founder & Chief Operating Officer of Tactical Systems Network, LLC (TSN) – An executive-level security and investigations firm in Fort Worth, Texas. TSN’s clients range from Fortune 100 companies to private wealth individuals, schools and businesses. He is an ex-municipal law enforcement officer and the author of “LIFE IN THE FISH BOWL, The true story of how one white cop infiltrated and took down 41 of the nation’s most notorious Crips.”