No one is immune to identity theft, even young children and teens. Typically, criminals target those who are less likely to be aware of teen identity theft, so criminals can ride the money train for as long as possible.
Identity Theft Statistics
According to a 2018 study performed by Javelin Strategy & Research, two-thirds of all identity theft victims are under the age of 8. Roughly 20% are between the ages of 8 and 12. Children are ripe for this type of fraud, and the experts estimate that 1 million children are victims of identity fraud every year. The losses stemming from identity theft total more than $2.67 billion.
According to the same study, teens are more at risk after a data breach than adults. Their findings showed that 39% of teens were victimized after a data breach, where only 19% of adults were.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) says that 18-29-year-olds are the group that is most at risk for identity theft. Those 18 and under are becoming a larger target group as well.
What is Identity Theft?
Identity theft is when someone steals your social security number, birth date, and other identifying information and pretends to be you so they can apply for credit cards, mortgages, loans, or commit other types of fraud like filing a tax return with the IRS to get a refund. Scammers are often total strangers, but they can also be someone related to you or a close friend.
Unfortunately, identity theft is very common, and children and teens are often targeted due to the fact they are not yet using their credit.
Why Are Teens Targeted for Identity Theft?
Teenagers make great targets for scams for a number of reasons. Identity thieves target people who are easiest and who won’t notice the fraud so they can maximize their profits. Some reasons that these criminals target teens are:
Online Use - Teens spend a large amount of time online signing up for accounts, gaming, and communicating on social media. This makes them very visible as targets. They may also not be stingy with sharing personal details, unaware of the dangers.
Undetected Use - Teens won’t start using their credit to take out loans for a while; therefore, the fraudster can use their identity and reap the benefits sometimes for years before the damage is detected. Usually, teens realize something is wrong when they apply for a driver’s license or attend college and try to take out school loans.
Unworried - Teens also tend to be unconcerned about identity theft and don’t worry about the consequences believing it won’t happen to them. That’s no guarantee, and that lax attitude may put them at risk.
What is Teen Identity Theft, How Do Thieves Steal it?
Identity theft can happen in various ways; it is the same for teens as adults. Sometimes scammers steal your mail, hack into your computer or mobile device and steal information that way. If teens are included in any data breaches, their information may be compromised. Many schools have been targeted for data breaches lately. A phishing email is another tool used by identity thieves to get an unsuspecting teen to click a link, enter information or unwittingly download malicious software.
Unfortunately, due to the fact that a young person’s information can be used for so long, teens are particularly vulnerable to becoming victims of identity theft. According to NBC News, a thief can purchase a child’s social security number on the dark web for about $2.
Red Flags That Your Teen’s Identity Has Been Stolen
Some warning signs that your teenager may be a victim of teen identity theft are:
- They start receiving pre-approved credit card offers and loans in the mail.
- They receive a bank statement or credit card statement in your child’s name, and they have no accounts.
- You receive calls from a collection agency about overdue balances on fraudulent credit file accounts.
- They apply for a student loan or driver’s license and find out that someone already has one using their social security number.
- Your child’s credit report shows accounts and a full credit history that does not belong to them.
- Your teen is arrested for a crime they never committed.
How To Stay Safe from Teen Identity Theft
Cleaning up identity theft is much more complicated than preventing it. Thankfully, there are steps you can take to prevent teen identity theft.
- Always be sure to be cautious about giving out personal information like your social security number, birth date, bank account details, your home address, phone numbers, or mother’s maiden name.
- Never download software from untrusted sources.
- Do not click links in email or text messages. Visit the website yourself using a clean browser window.
- Monitor your credit report, you can get a free copy every year.
- Put a credit freeze on your child’s credit report until they need it. That way, no one can open new accounts in their name without you thawing it. Contact each of the credit reporting agencies to do this.
- Shred documents with personal information on them before throwing them in the trash.
- Always use very strong passwords on computers, tablets, and mobile phones.
- Avoid storing personal information on a cell phone without using a biometric to secure it like FaceID or Fingerprint ID.
- Keep computers and mobile devices locked with a PIN.
- Store your social security card and birth certificate at home in a safe location.
- Protect your PIN when entering it at a gas station or ATM.
- Never put your social security number on your resume.
What to Do if You Are the Victim of Identity Fraud
If you do become the victim of identity fraud, take the steps below as soon as possible.
- Contact local law enforcement and file a report.
- Put a fraud alert on your credit report with all three major credit bureaus (Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax).
- Contact the FTC to file a complaint online or by calling 1-877-438-4338.
- Review all your bank and credit card accounts and request new cards if anything has been tampered with.
- Get a free copy of your credit report every year to review all activity and verify the information.
- Sign up for credit and identity monitoring to let the experts keep an eye on things for you.
- Contact the Identity Theft Resource Center for more help.