As we move through the various stages of life, we learn, grow, and experience new situations, challenges, and people. Progressing through life means that you get to leave some things behind and look forward to others as you age and mature. Unfortunately, there’s one dark cloud that can follow you through every stage of life: identity theft.
Identity thieves don’t care how old you are. From birth onward, and even after death, your identity is fair game. The risk of having your identity stolen does tend to grow over time as you accumulate more wealth and become more involved in different groups, but the looming threat is always there. Here are a few identity theft statistics, organized by stage of life, to help you understand how you and members of your family could be impacted.
Every year, about 1.3 million children are victims of identity theft; 50% of those kids are younger than six years old. Are you surprised by how many children are targeted by identity thieves? Don’t worry, you’re not alone—many parents don’t even think about protecting their kids’ identities. Children are excellent targets for identity thieves because they have a blank credit slate and identity thieves are relying on the fact that any fraudulent activity will go unnoticed for years – before someone realizes what’s been done.
There are three primary events that may happen when a child is born that put them on the radar for identity thieves: the issuing of a birth certificate, creation of a Social Security Number, and the opening of a savings account in their name. One way to keep kids safe is for parents to create credit reports and freeze them—19 states in the U.S. require credit bureaus to help parents create reports for their children for the express purpose of freezing them.
As children blossom into young adults, the threat of identity theft doesn’t go away—it just grows. Since 2005, there have been over 727 breaches involving educational institutions, with more than 14 million breached records. The Federal Trade Commission reports college students are about five times more likely to be victims of identity theft.
It’s not only breaches at educational institutions, though, that increase a young adult’s risk of identity theft. It’s the addition of plenty of common things that just become parts of our lives and we don’t give much thought to. For example, young adults increase their risk of identity theft when they create and use social media accounts, get driver’s licenses, buy a mobile phone, land a job and have a paycheck stub, open bank accounts, file tax returns, and apply for a passport.
Though every age group can be affected by identity theft, working adults hold the unenviable title of being the age group with the most identity theft victims. Nearly 75% of identity theft victims are between the ages of 20 and 59—the prime working years. 60% of identity theft complaints in 2016 were from individuals greater than 40 years old.
Why is this age group so at risk? In addition to all the risk factors they acquired as children and young adults, many now take on additional risk factors like having a home mortgage, credit cards, car loans, medical insurance, and a retirement savings account. It’s not just those personal accounts, loans, and credit cards though that can spell trouble—sometimes going to work is a danger. The percentage of identity theft cases originating in the workplace is estimated to be anywhere between 30% to 50%.
Wouldn’t it be nice if identity thieves left us alone in our golden years? Unfortunately, many older adults become victims of identity theft because they seem like easy targets. They are frequent recipients of phone and email scams that try to trick them into providing personal information or money. Because of this, 2.6 million seniors are victims of identity theft each year—a senior becomes a victim every four minutes.
On top of the lifetime of risk older adults have accumulated, they often add even more with retirement accounts, Medicare, and the creation of wills and legal documents.
With over 10,000 identity theft rings in the U.S. looking for ways to steal Personally Identifiable Information (PII) of you and your family, it’s virtually impossible to protect all aspects of your identity in the public and private domains. Identity thieves never rest. Thus, proactive monitoring of your identity throughout your life is necessary to safeguard your personal information, give you peace of mind, and mitigate your risk.
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