Teens and College Students: Prime Targets for Identity Theft

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A recent article warned that young adults aged 18 to 24 are among the last to detect identity theft.  Especially at risk are college students, many of whom are away from home for the first time and are now starting to be independent.

People in this age group feel entitled to adult treatment but frequently ignore adult responsibilities, such as keeping a close eye on finances.

According to Javelin Strategy and Research, “it takes young adults an average of 132 days to notice important discrepancies that signal identity fraud, so their average loss was roughly five times more than the amount lost by other age groups.”

Young adults are more prone to fall for online scams. One such scam is the “nanny scam,” where interested job seekers are contacted online to care for a child, and are told they will be hired as a nanny, and then are tricked into giving out personal information to the scammer. 

Or they are given a fake check to deposit, and told to keep some while forwarding the rest to the scammer. The check always falls through, and the scammed person is forced to pay back the money themselves.

Here are four safety tips for teens and young adults:

1. Update PC and phone operating systems. 

Why?  7 percent of smartphone owners were victims of identity fraud in 2011.  Keep anti-virus and spyware updated to prevent hackers from gaining remote access.  Always password-protect devices.

2. Keep valuable documents at home.

If possible, leave Social Security cards, passports, birth certificates, and bank/credit card statements at home. If not possible, store them securely (lock them up). School mailboxes are not always secure; have sensitive mail sent to a parent’s home or to a rented P.O. box.

3. Don’t lend.

Never lend credit or debit cards to anyone, not even for a few minutes. Don’t co-sign loans for roommates. If your contribution is needed, pay the roommate directly.

4. Read your mail.

Read your mail, including credit/debit card statements.  Look for suspicious activity. Don’t just throw away “junk mail” credit card offers or documents that include financial information — shred them first!

In general, the sooner you identify fraud, the less you lose.

Internet safety isn’t just for children. Young adults need to be protected, too. Parents, as you send kids off to college for the first time, make sure they understand how to be safe online.

Online safety isn’t just about posting too much information. Young adults should learn how to detect sketchy job offers and other unsavory things as well.

I work for Net Nanny.  All opinions expressed here are my own.

Net Nanny is hosting a parenting webinar on September 20th to reveal “5 Steps for Emotion Coaching Angry Teenagers” – Space reserved for the first 1,000 people at: https://www2.gotomeeting.com/register/414270282

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