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 most age groups. Here are three groups identity thieves target and why.
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—29, 30—39, 40—49 and 50—59 age groups is either tied or a mere 1% at 18%, 18%, 19% and 19% respectively. Older age groups report lower numbers, with 60—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 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, according to the 2015 Identity Fraud Study by Javelin Strategy & Research.
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 the Javelin study.
While senior reporting of identity fraud-related losses may be less than other populations—it’s likely even 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.
If you suspect you're a victim of identity theft or wish to proactively manage your identity, check with your insurance company, financial institution, or employee benefits provider. Many companies offer LifeStages® Identity Management Services from CyberScout for low or no cost. To learn more, visit CyberScout’s Knowledge Center or call 1-888-682-5911.