Commonly, those individuals who worry about being financially compromised by identity theft are those who have developed a solid credit history. These folks have spent years making steady payments and wise investments to improve their score. They typically monitor their credit levels and are very careful about who they give information too, especially online. They might even invest in an identity fraud prevention company that will promise to monitor their information and alert them to potential fraud. Unfortunately, others who are young and carefree rarely think of themselves as a likely target for identity theft. As the market evolves and provides methods to monitor one’s credit and conceal one’s identity, predators have targeted the young as a convenient market for theft.
Think back to your own high school and college days. When asked about your greatest assets, you may have described your car, the furniture in your apartment, and possibly some savings in the bank. You might have even purchased some stock or invested in a startup. It is unlikely that you would have declared your identity as being the greatest asset you owned! Identity thieves are targeting younger generations as the perfect market for identity theft. Why? Because young people are not aware of the risks and don’t understand the consequences of losing their identity to someone who will accumulate years of bad credit, smear their driving record, and even develop an arrest record!
Why has this market segment become a hot target for identity theft? Parents have grown into the habit of paying for expenses and purchase so that their kids can enjoy youth and be carefree. Although this is a blessing, it has also become a curse. Young adults who take out credit cards, open bank accounts, and develop debt will often do so with funding from their parents. The parents will receive bills and pay them off with few inquiries as to what their child is purchasing and where they purchased it. Another aspect of easy identity fraud is the use of technology to make quick and convenient purchases. The younger generations are the most comfortable with technology and find the convenience irresistible.
This culture of parental funding allows teens and young adults to perform minimal self-monitoring and act with minimum caution when protecting their small investments. Although many identity thieves are caught in the act, they can get away with fraud for several years before they are discovered if the victim is not monitoring their identity and credit. Much damage can be done by the time the student applies for a private loan, rents an apartment, takes out a mortgage, applies for jobs, and becomes gradually more identity conscious. Nothing is more shocking than hearing about a debt you never agreed to, crimes you didn’t commit, and being rejected for a much needed loan or mortgage.
Cincinnati Insurance performed some research on this exact topic and published the results in their August 2015 blog “College Students, Identity Thieves Want You“. According to the Federal Trade Commission, one in five targets of identity fraud were between ages 20-29 and another six percent were under the age of 19. Unfortunately, the consequences of losing one’s identity will include the pricey steps needed to remediate fraud from one’s record. This can include the cost of attorneys, lost wages due to meetings, and general items like notary and courtroom fees.
So how can you protect yourself and your children from this growing identity crisis?
- Start by carefully monitoring who has your personal information and what they do with it. Be sure to shred documents that have sensitive data such as your social security number.
- When making online purchases, using online banking sites, and utilizing other sites that contain your personal information, always log out of the page before exiting and never allow your computer to save payment or password information.
- Before making an online purchase, confirm that the website uses https:// within their hyperlink to ensure a safe transition of information. It is never recommended that payment or banking information be shared over the phone or email.
- Public Wi-Fi at a fast food joint, local coffee shop, or the airport can be a hazardous convenience. Be sure that you have a secure link to public Wi-Fi so that others cannot obtain information on your computer without your consent.
- Efficient passwords can help to secure your personal information. Never use your address, birthdate, family names, or pet names that are often discussed in a public forum (such as Facebook or Twitter).
- Be aware of the risks and check your credit score at least once a year. There are many ways to monitor credit using free websites, apps, and even getting reports from your credit card company.
Now that you know the risks and consequences associated with identity fraud you can take steps to monitor and protect your most valuable asset! For more information on identity theft, visit identitytheft.gov, a website hosted by the Federal Trade Commission. Most homeowner insurance policies offer some optional identity fraud coverage that will help to pay the costs associated with regaining a stolen identity. Call your local agent for more availability and pricing on this coverage!
Bomkamp, Kristen. “College Students, Identity Thieves Want You.” The Cincinnati Insurance Companies Blog. Cincinnati Financial Corporation, 11 Aug. 2015. Web. 16 Mar. 2016. <http://blog.cinfin.com/2015/08/11/college-students-identity-theft/>.