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Research shows that consumers ages 18 to 24 are at greatest risk of identity theft of all age groups. It's easy to understand why. These young adults are establishing themselves in adult society, studying, working, and spending time with friends. And they spend much on their time online, communicating through social media, downloading media, and making financial transactions. That makes them a prime target for identity thieves.

ITAC offers you the following advice to protect your personal information.

Guard Your Physical Documents

  1. Move your financial transactions online by replacing paper invoices, statements and checks (including paychecks) with electronic versions when offered by employers, banks, utilities or merchants. Avoid mailing checks to pay bills or deposit funds in your banking account. Instead, pay bills online and use remote deposit check imaging services on online banking sites.
  2. Use a secure mailbox for receiving incoming mail.
  3. Reduce unnecessary access to your financial cards and documents wherever possible. For example, don’t carry Social Security cards or unused credit cards or checks, and don’t leave sensitive documents out in the open, even in your own home, where others may easily access them.
  4. Be mindful of your environment and others who may be in proximity of overhearing sensitive financial or personal information or watching you text. This includes purchases over the phone or use of your Social Security number for identification.

Stay Safe Online

  1. Social networking sites can be a hazard for information breach and theft of contacts. Do not reveal any sensitive personal information on your Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, or any other social networking site. Also, be sure to understand and use any privacy features available on the website.
  2. Install and regularly update firewall, browser, anti-spyware anti-virus, and anti-keylogging security software on your personal computer, and where available on your personal mobile device. Keep operating systems and your browser settings up to date.
  3. Do not provide your card information to any website that is not secure. To determine if it is a secure site, look at the URL for the “s” after the “http” in the address bar (“https”) and look for the padlock symbol. With firms that offer even better security, the address bar turns bright green. The bright green address bar indicates that the company operating the website has gone through extra validation steps.
  4. Select more complex passwords for your online accounts, and avoid using similar passwords for all of your accounts.
  5. Require passwords on your PC and mobile device when powering on and coming out of “sleep” mode.
  6. Encrypt files on your PC that contain private information with encryption tools such as PGP.
  7. Exercise caution and avoid accessing websites requiring input of sensitive, personal, or account information in unsecured Wi-Fi locations such as coffee shops, libraries, airports, and any other wireless access points.

Be Vigilant!

  1. Monitor your accounts online often at bank and credit card websites (or via paper statements if you do not have access to a computer). Customers who monitor their accounts often have lower fraud and/or consumer costs when their accounts are compromised.
  2. Learn about each of the various types of phishing and website redirect attacks. Do not respond to e-mails or phone calls that ask for your Social Security number, account number, password, PIN, or any personally identifying information, unless you have initiated the call to a known bank phone number or you logged into a known online banking site. Newer tactics include fraudsters hacking into personal e-mail accounts and using contact list e-mail addresses to pose as trusted contacts to solicit private information or funds.
  3. Shield your PINs and card numbers so they cannot be captured on a camera or by someone looking over your shoulder. Choose PINs that are not easy to guess and change them regularly.

Additional Resources

  1. National Cyber Security Alliance on safe social networking and how to protect your mobile devices
    http://www.staysafeonline.org/stay-safe-online/protect-your-personal-information/social-networks
  2. Federal Trade Commissions identity theft website, “Deter, Detect, Defend.”
    http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/microsites/idtheft/index.html
How long can the effects of identity theft last?

It's difficult to predict how long the effects of identity theft may linger. That's because it depends on many factors including the type of theft, whether the thief sold or passed your information on to other thieves, whether the thief is caught, and problems related to correcting your credit report.

Victims of identity theft should monitor financial records for several months after they discover the crime. Victims should review their credit reports once every three months in the first year of the theft, and once a year thereafter. Stay alert for other signs of identity theft. Don't delay in correcting your records and contacting all companies that opened fraudulent accounts. Make the initial contact by phone, even though you will normally need to follow up in writing. The longer the inaccurate information goes uncorrected, the longer it will take to resolve the problem. Federal Trade Commission

 

Copyright © 2013    ITAC, the Identity Theft Assistance Center, is the national advocate for identity theft victims and a leading voice on identity policy. Millions of consumers have access to the ITAC victim assistance service through our members - the financial services companies who support ITAC and offer it as a free service for their customers. ITAC is dedicated to protecting all consumers through education, research and the criminal prosecution of identity crime.