Financial Advice

Are You a Prime Target for Identity Theft?

Think identity theft mostly happens to older people? Or to higher income earners? Or college students? The truth is that identity thieves focus their efforts wherever the opportunities are, and there are plenty of opportunities across all age groups.

What Personal Factors Do Identity Thieves Focus On?

At first glance, age could be considered an afterthought to identity thieves, according to consumer complaints to the Federal Trade Commission. The percentage difference among the 20 to 29, 30 to 39, 40 to 49 and 50 to 59 age groups is either tied or a mere 1%. Older age groups report lower numbers, with 60- to 69-year-olds accounting for just 13% of complaints and people over 70 accounting for 7% (children 19 and under account for the remaining 6%).

Clearly, people in every age group need to be vigilant about identity theft. Moreover, low incident report rates may not tell the full story about a certain population. They may just mean that the fraud is going unnoticed or underreported.

At the end of the day, behavior and circumstances are often the biggest risk factors for identity theft. And where you are in life can be a key factor. The following three populations are a case in point.

College Students

College students are four times more likely to have their identity stolen through familiar fraud than other populations. Much of the issue is likely due to awareness of behaviors that may put them at risk, as well as limited understanding of the costs and challenges of identity theft. For example, students are often very aware of computer security, but they share personal information widely and may not understand the importance of locking away or shredding important documents and IDs, and regularly checking their credit reports. (You can get free annual credit reports at AnnualCreditReport.com and you can check your credit scores for free every month on Credit.com.)

Military Personnel

Service members suffer more familiar fraud and new-account fraud than most populations. The military has used personally identifying information (PII), such as Social Security numbers, as general identifiers for personnel, which increases theft risks. Moreover, deployed military personnel who do not place an Active Duty Alert on their credit files are easy targets for friends or family members, according to a Javelin study.

Seniors

While senior reporting of identity fraud-related losses may be less than other populations — the fraud rate is likely higher. For example, an AARP survey found that “victims 55 years of age and older were significantly less likely to acknowledge that they were defrauded than victims under 55.”  Yet seniors are very much vulnerable and targeted. All-too-common scams include tax identity theft, medical identity theft and fraud committed by nursing home and long-term care staff.

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This article originally appeared on Credit.com.

This article by Victor Searcy was distributed by the Personal Finance Syndication Network.

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