While age may just be a number it does play a big part in identity theft, a crime in which someone wrongfully obtains and uses another person’s personal data that involves fraud or deception.
According to several recent studies, nearly one-third of reported identity theft victims are teenagers and young adults (18 through 29). Teenagers are particularly vulnerable for several reasons:
Not knowing the score. Parents forget to check their teen-ager’s credit ratings, which can indicate early spurious activity on their account.
No credit file. Some teens do not even have a credit file that can be monitored and their clean credit record attracts identity thieves for one simple reason: They can pile up charges on a fresh record for years.
Inattention. Let’s face it, many teens do not always use caution and this leads to inattention to personal information.
Lack of reporting. Young people do not always report the crime, allowing identity thieves to use the stolen identification to rack up larger and larger charges.
Trust. Teenagers are more likely to think their personal data is secure as compared to adults. As a result, they are more likely to use credit cards in unsecured environments or send out personal information over the phone or Internet.
Social networking. Teenagers love social networking. Unfortunately, so do criminals. They lie in wait for teens to post personal information on the Internet, social network, blogs and other online platforms. In addition, teens sometimes leave themselves vulnerable by giving thieves access to sensitive records and papers through file-sharing services.
Fake IDs. Unsuspecting teens may be buying more than alcohol when they purchase a Fake ID. Their identities could be stolen in the process from scam websites across the globe looking to sell their personal information.
At First Bank, we take identity theft seriously. Parents and teen-agers should, too. To protect young people from what many call the fastest growing crime in the 21st century, the following are some ways to educate your teen about identity theft:
- Get your teens involved in the process by including shredding in their weekly chores. Talk about what personal information is and why it should be shredded.
- Use the “Don’t need it? Leave it!” rule. Leave everything out of your wallet or purse you don’t absolutely need to carry with you. It’s more convenient and less risky.
- If they are old enough to establish a checking account, add identity theft protection to their accounts immediately. This will monitor activity that may be occurring through the credit bureaus and with their social security number.
- Encourage your teen to sign up for online banking so they can frequently review the activity. Remind them it’s for their eyes only.
- Teach teens to use the password lock function on their cell phones, laptops and any other electronic device.
- Talk to your teen about never giving out any of their personal information without your permission. Clarify what that means. Personal information can fall into the wrong hands in a myriad of ways including face to face, on the phone, or online.
- If they drive a car, be sure they clean it out daily. Applications, receipts, old bills and other documents left in the car are great sources of information for an identity thief.
If your teenager’s identity is stolen, it can take many years to undo the damage. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Start educating your teen-ager today.
Anne V. Lee, First Bank Retail Banking President