Identity theft targets young people

College-age individuals are at high risk for falling victim to identity theft, according to the Better Business Bureau.

College students are especially susceptible to what is known as friendly fraud, meaning someone close to you steals your identity. One in five cases of friendly fraud occurs on college campuses, according to the Better Business Bureau.

According to the Federal Trade Commission website, identity theft is when someone else uses your personal information without permission to commit fraud or other crimes.

Nicole Williams, marketing director at Heartland Bank and Trust, said at her bank they also see a lot of older individuals getting taken advantage of, but she can understand why college-aged people become victims to identity theft as well.

“College-aged individuals put themselves out there more online. They also use ATMs and debit cards more frequently, and typically live in close quarters with others,” Williams said.

According to the Federal Trade Commission’s 2012 Consumer Sentinel Network Report, the No. 1 state in the U.S. to have reported identity theft is Florida. Illinois is No. 11 on the list with 12,993 reports of identity theft in 2012.

The same report states that the top three identity theft types for Illinois last year were government documents or benefits fraud, credit card fraud and phone or utilities fraud.

Williams said the best way to prevent identity theft is to make sure confidential information remains confidential.

“Never write down anything that someone could potentially steal and use to commit identity theft,” she added.

Williams explained more specific measures to take to avoid identity theft include never checking the “remember username” option on online banking logins, never write down your PIN and never share your online banking login information with anyone.

“Something I think a lot of people don’t think to do is to keep a full list including the phone numbers of all your credit cards separate from your wallet,” Williams said. “This will allow you to be able to easily cancel cards and not forget any of them if you lose your wallet or if it gets stolen.”

She also said to try to use a credit card, rather than debit, when online shopping.

“This is a much more secure and safe way to online shop,” she said.

Another way many identity thieves gain access to personal information is through ATM machines, she added.

“When approaching an ATM look for unusual devices, called ATM skimming. There may be a hidden camera, an additional card slot or a keypad overlay,” she said.

These skimming devices will take your card information and record your PIN, Williams added.

If you realize you are a victim to identity theft, the first step is to file a police report, she said.

“Then be sure to contact your bank and credit card companies to cancel your cards,” she added.

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