Identity theft can affect you at any age. Last year, almost 18 million Americans fell victim to the crime. Whether you’re in grade school or enjoying retirement, everyone’s personal information has some value to a thief. Fortunately, more people have become aware of these dangers and know how to navigate through life a little more safely. Here is part one of how you can work to protect yourself throughout life’s many milestones:
- Children are ideal victims. Children are enticing targets because it can take many years before any damage is detected. Sometimes, the perpetrators of child identity theft are close to the victim, either a family member or family friend, and sometimes they are complete strangers.
- Know when it’s usually detected. Because creditors don’t always verify the age of the person applying, thieves can use a child’s Social Security Number to fraudulently open a line of credit. The crime is then discovered by a parent when trying to open a savings account or college fund in the child’s name, or even later on, when the child tries to get a driver’s license or open his or her own line of credit.
- Know the steps you can take. To defend children from the harm of identity theft, some parents choose to obtain a credit freeze for their child. If you think your child is at risk, you can also check with each of the three credit reporting companies to see if there is a credit report in your child’s name.
- College students are startling susceptible. According to the Financial Times, college students are five times more likely to experience identity theft, and most of them never even suspect it. You may not be rich, but thieves would love to steal your name and at this age. Your devices, social media presence, careless passwords, first credit card and other factors make you extremely vulnerable to fraud. Since college is all about education and new experiences, it’s also a great time to learn about personal security.
- Secure yourself online. This means being more private on the internet and creating strong passwords for all your accounts, especially for any school-related login information, which could lead thieves to important financial information.
- Keep valuables safe in your dorm. Living in a shared space, like a dormitory, can also increase your susceptibility. You should have all important mail sent to a home address, since it’s likely to be more secure there. In your room, keep your valuables secure and shred any sensitive documents. If you’ve started using a credit card for the first time in your life, keep track of your credit. You’re allowed a free report each year from credit bureaus.
An identity theft protection plan like Identity Guard can help you protect against identity theft and credit fraud by monitoring your credit files, public records and personal information, and alerting you to certain activity that may indicate fraud. You can also add kIDSure to your identity theft protection plan. With kIDSure, Identity Guard scours thousands of data sources, searching for certain information related to your child—if it finds activity that suggests someone is using your child’s information as their own, you’ll get an alert.
Take charge of your life and protect yourself and your family—be vigilant, stay informed, and act.