Is someone Grabbing your identity? College-age people appear most at risk

Is someone Grabbing your identity? College-age people appear most at risk

You’re savvy on the Internet and you feel comfortable making many of your purchases online.

You’ll be much safer than other people when it comes to identity theft, right?

Wrong.

“The age demographic that is most at risk is 18- to 29-year-olds,” said Janet Jenkins, administrator of Wisconsin’s Trade & Consumer Protection Division. “They are probably the most unsophisticated when it comes to financial matters. Those people tend to be the victims.”

Abdul Sinno, chairman and professor of communication at Clarke College, characterized this generation as “the most gullible generation.”

“Students at this age are most trusting of others and as you mature, you realize trust cannot be granted in every situation,” Sinno said. “By the time they get on MySpace and Facebook or they text message, students might disclose information that is very important.”

The under-30 crowd also tends to rely on Internet transactions more frequently, which increases their theft risk.

“The technology that allows us to make purchases online also allows identity thieves Advertisement¬†to perpetrate the crime in the first place,” Jenkins said. “They can do much of this online.”

The idea of scammers only preying on older adults is less than accurate, Jenkins said, just as the idea that all identity thieves are strangers.

“The most common way (to become victimized) is through a friend or relative, actually,” Jenkins said. “Many victims know who the thief is.”

Jenkins’ agency investigates complaints of grandchildren taking grandparents’ credit cards and roommates using a friend’s Social Security number.

“The basic idea is don’t leave your personal information lying around,” she said, “like a credit card or bank statement.”

Assistant Dubuque Police Chief Terry Tobin said local identity theft hits across the age spectrum.

“We have older people also that get hit by the scams,” Tobin said. “We can have a tendency with some of our older residents, they aren’t as savvy with some of these scams.”

Local authorities first noticed an onset of identity theft about eight years ago.

“It has just continued ever since,” Tobin said. “It’s growing.”

Just as not all scams target the Internet generation, not all scams require advanced technology. Thieves sometimes acquire Social Security cards and other essential documents by stealing wallets or purses.

“Anymore, if someone steals your wallet or your purse, it becomes a nightmare,” Tobin said.

The Social Security Administration can assign a new number if all other attempts to fix problems resulting from number misuse have failed.

However, the Social Security Administration does not assign new numbers to help people avoid the consequences of filing for bankruptcy, if people intend to avoid the law or their legal responsibility or if a Social Security card is lost or stolen but there is no evidence that someone is using the number.

People applying for a new number must prove their age, U.S. citizenship or lawful immigration status and identity.

People also must provide evidence that they are being disadvantaged by the misuse.

A new number will not solve all problems, because other governmental agencies (such as the Internal Revenue Service and state motor vehicle agencies) and private businesses (such as banks and credit reporting companies) will likely only have records under the old number.

For some victims, a new number creates new problems: If existing credit information is not associated with the new number, the absence of any credit history under the new number could make it more difficult to acquire credit.

“Be protective of your Social Security number and also protective of your financial information, your bank account numbers,” Tobin said.

Identity theft risks occur throughout the course of a day, as people write checks at the store, make online purchases, call home on a cell phone or apply for a credit card.

“Be suspicious,” Jenkins said.

Each of the above transactions requires the sharing of personal information such as bank and credit card account numbers, your income, your Social Security number or your name, address and phone numbers.

“Try to keep your personal information as confidential as possible,” Jenkins said.

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