In 2006, 9.9 million Americans were victims of identity theft, resulting in a combined loss of about $5 billion. Approximately 1/3 of those victims were teens and young adults under the age of 29. So what exactly is identity theft and why are young people most likely to become targets?
Identity theft is any crime that falls under the categories of mail fraud, credit card theft, or check fraud. Unfortunately, many teens are completely unaware that they have become victims of identity theft until they apply for their first driver’s license and find that their social security number is already in use.
Experts suggest that the main reason that teens and young adults are targeted is because they usually don’t have established credit records that can be monitored, they are less likely to check their credit reports and account statements, and are often unaware of safe online financial habits (which tends to result in using insecure online sites for financial transactions).
How can you protect yourself and your identity from the greedy hands of thieves? Read through the safety tips below and see which apply to you and your financial situation.
1. Endorse your credit/check card as soon as it arrives in the mail.
2. Photocopy the front and back of your card and keep the copies in a secure location in your house.
Should you lose your card you will have all the information you need to cancel it immediately.
3. Never give your personal information out over the phone, unless you are absolutely certain you are 4. Be wary of any phone calls that claim that you have won a prize. Many thieves will use this tactic to
dealing with a reputable company. This includes your credit/check card number, your savings accoun
number, your debit pin number, your social security number, your date of birth and your mother’s
get your personal information by promising to deposit prize money into your account, when in reality
they will take the information you give them and use it to steal your money.
5. Notify your credit card company of your new address before you plan to move. This way your credit card
information is not sent to the wrong address.
6. If you receive a letter stating that you should have received a card in the mail, and it has not yet arrived, notify the
card issuer immediately to track down your card.
7. Check any magazines you subscribe to ensure that your credit card number is not on the front mailing panel. If it is
contact the company and have them remove it immediately.
8. When you make a purchase with your card keep an eye on the clerk to ensure that he or she doesn’t copy down
your credit card number or make any imprints of your card.
9. Save your receipts and check them against your billing statement at the end of the month. Keep an eye out for any
discrepancies between your records and the record held by the statement.
10. Should you lose your card notify the issuing company immediately. Most fraudulent purchases are made within
the first 48 hours during which the card has been lost/stolen.
11. If you receive a call informing you that your card has been found and that it will be returned, cancel your card
anyway. Many thieves will use this ploy to buy time to use the card, while the card holder waits expectantly for
their card to be returned
12. When placing an online order check to make sure that the website offers secure transactions
The 2 ways to ensure that online transactions are secure:
1. An icon of a lock will appear in the bottom strip of the web browser page
2. The URL domain will change from “http://” to “https://”
13. Don’t carry your social security card or your birth certificate on your person, keep it in a secure location at your
14. Bring in your mail daily, and don’t leave it out over night.
15. Shred and destroy any unwanted documents that contain personal information.
16. When asked for your Social Security number ask how it will be used and how it will be protected from identity
theft, also check and see if another number can be used instead.
17. Don’t store your personal information on electronic devices.
It may seem like there is a lot to think about when it comes to protecting your identity, but don’t worry too much. The government has enacted laws to protect you as a consumer and a card holder. The Fair Credit Billing Act (FCBA) is in place to protect card holders in the event of a lost or stolen credit card. If you report the card lost or stolen before it is used, you cannot be held liable for any unauthorized charges made to it. If a thief does use your card before you report it missing, the most you can be charged is $50.00 per card.
Should you find that your check/credit card has been lost or stolen, inform your credit union immediately so they can put a hold on your account. In addition to calling your credit union you may want to call one of the three major credit reporting agencies, and they will inform the other two for you. This way any transactions made during the time your card is missing, do not go onto your credit report.SOURCES TO HELP YOU
You can report credit fraud to any one of the three major credit reporting companies, and they will inform the other two for you.
If you have questions or complaints about identity theft call:
THE IDENTITY THEFT HOTLINE: 1-877-ID-THEFT (1-877-438-4338)
Or go online to: www.consumer.gov/idtheft
If you have had any checks stolen or any accounts set up fraudulently in your name, call:
NATIONAL PROCESSING COMPANY: 800-526-5380
If your social security number was used fraudulently call:
SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION’S FRAUD HOTLINE: 800-269-0271